LA Times Becomes First Newspaper to Cover 'Black Twitter'
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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Currently, Dexter Thomas is listed on The Los Angeles Times online directory as a “staff writer for audience engagement.” The title seems simple enough but, in reality, Thomas’ new position, which entails responsibilities as a beat reporter covering Black Twitter, is none other than groundbreaking.

His position ranks him right up there with Harry S. McAlpin, the first African American journalist admitted to a White House press conference in 1944, and Robert Richardson, an advertising salesman for the LA Times who reported on the 1965 Watts race riots prior to the paper hiring Ray Rodgers, its first “official” staff reporter.

[Related: Periscope: Winning at Disrupting Social Media Advertising]

Why is it revolutionary to cover people of the black diaspora on one of America’s most popular social networks?

As it has been reported a hundred times before, Black Twitter is a force to be reckoned with. While many tweets include comical commentary and celebrity entertainment news, others have started civil unrest, caused racists to lose their jobs, and cost national brands hundreds of thousands of dollars due to offline boycotts.

Among its conquests are memes surrounding hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls, #DonLemonLogic, and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. With #JusticeForTrayvon, Black Twitter led the call for police to arrest George Zimmerman after the death of Trayvon Martin, pushed African Americans to boycott Black Friday with #NotOneDime and #BlackOutBlackFriday; and #FireElizabethLauten caused Republican Congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten to resign after statements she made about Sasha and Malia Obama’s wardrobe.

According to The Poynter Institute, Los Angeles Times Managing Editor, S. Mitra Kalita, announced Thomas in a memo to staff on Monday.

“Dexter Thomas joins us today to cover Black Twitter (which really is so much more complicated than that). He will work closely with the newsroom and #EmergingUS to find communities online (Black Medium to Latino Tumblr to Line in Japan) and both create stories with and pull stories from those worlds.”

While not every African American on Twitter self-selects as a member of Black Twitter, those that do are often not monolithic in a demographic sense but are familiar with the “hidden transcript,” describes Meredith Clark, a professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas in an interview with The Atlantic. In other words, they have the cultural background to understand conversations as they are playing out. Clark’s research on Black Twitter establishes a framework that uses the participants own narratives to describe the social construction of an identifiable, influential meta-network of communicators with the ability to impact news media coverage on African American life.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.