Gannett stands up for journalists, Black communities amid anti-racism protests

By Cathy Colliver


Louisville, Kentucky, USA


2020 seems to be the year that keeps on giving us complex societal challenges. For a bit over a month now, protests against systemic racism have popped up in cities and towns all across the United States (and in many other countries around the world). Layered on top of a world-wide pandemic, these events have focused attention on underlying issues affecting all of humanity in a way this generation has not seen before.

Gannett's social justice campaign makes it clear what the company stands for.
Gannett's social justice campaign makes it clear what the company stands for.

Mark Read, CEO of the brand firm WPP, wrote for Think with Google in May, suggesting brands can take three actions to prepare for a “post-pandemic world.” Though he wrote this before the protests, these three “mantras” are applicable to how brands should navigate the entirety of this moment, not only COVID-19.

  • Be visible: WPP’s agency, Mindshare, conducted a survey that found 71% of Americans want to hear how brands or companies are taking action against COVID-19, and 65% believe brands should commit to making society better.
  • Be relevant: The focus here is on nurturing relationships now and sustaining them for the future while being relevant to consumers.
  • Be disruptive: Read points to the idea that “market disruption speeds up culture, so now is the time to act and experiment with a new strategy or creative approach.” Looked at from another angle, if you want to help enact change, you need to disrupt the status quo.

It is critical for the humans behind the brands to take time in this moment to understand the significance of social justice protests, and then take action to be visible, be relevant, and be disruptive.

Gannett takes action

Gannett has a national news brand (USA Today) and more than 260 local news brands in communities large and small across the United States. When protests started in late May, our journalists were on the ground covering the events and the issues from every angle.

USA Today published an opinion piece by USA Today Publisher Maribel Wadsworth, USA Today Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll, and USA Today Network Vice President of Local News Amalie Nash calling for an end to journalists being hit with pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear gas as well as being arrested even after identifying themselves as press.

“Reporters and photographers are there to record the truth, as peaceful or as violent as it may be. We are considered public servants in this role, not part of the protests but there to document it for the American people,” the authors noted.

At the same time, Gannett took a hard look at how we could respond to this moment as a company. Our mission is to help communities connect and thrive. We strive to make communities stronger, and we have a huge impact as the largest local-to-national news organisation in the United States.

As part of the effort to use the vast reach of Gannett’s advertising and social platforms, a network-wide corporate awareness campaign was launched for social justice on June 8 with a full-page manifesto ad in the USA Today. This was followed by the launch of a “Take Action” portal, featuring a powerful manifesto video along with educational and action resources. The campaign has since launched in print and digital channels across our 260 local brands with the aim to:

  • State our position that we stand in solidarity with Black communities as an ally in the fight against systemic racism, racial injustice, and discrimination in all its forms.
  • Share three sustainable actions to support Black communities revolving around our journalism, workforce, and resources.
  • Help our readers take immediate action to drive positive change in our nation through our partnership with Public Good.
  • Provide access to stay informed on news and perspectives covering race and policing in America.
  • Provide actionable resources that help people be a better ally.

How can your brand take action?

In this moment, amidst a pandemic and a national (even global) conversation on racism, every news media company can take a hard look at the ways they can be visible, relevant, and disruptive to make our global community stronger.

How can you evaluate your news coverage to ensure it reflects the diversity in your community? What will you do to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion across your organisation? Where can you make an impact in your community to support racial equity and social justice?

Banner image courtesy of Kelly Lacy from Pexels.

About Cathy Colliver

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