AOL has just completed its acquisition of the Huffington Post, and along with the merger, Arianna Huffington will now oversee all content for AOL Latino and AOL Black Voices. This has prompted Richard Prince at Poynter to ask, “On the Internet, does anyone know whether you’re black or Latino?”
Various current and former executives at black media outlets, such as TheRoot and Black Planet, comment that they are uneasy at the thought of major ethnic media outlets being run by people with little connection to the community they serve. They also ponder the idea of digital segregation. Are unique media outlets for African Americans and Latinos creating digital segregation, taking minorities away from more “mainstream” sites? Barry Cooper, founder of BlackVoices, states, “It is unfair to suggest that black and Latino-themed websites should be owned only by people of color, although that certainly should be the preference…However, there are other important considerations, namely the makeup of the management team, the number of people of color employed by the entity, and their ability to use their influence and power to serve their communities.”
Publishers of digital content that targets minorities clearly believe that it is important for the sites to be directed and staffed by people of color. Similarly, I believe that they don’t want their sites to have advertising that is either offensive or irrelevant to their readers (ever seen an ad for a FindHotLatinaBrides type of website on an otherwise respectable site?). At the end of the day, the management, editorial and advertising sides all need to respect the target reader.
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