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Publisher Of Minneapolis Black-Owned Newspaper Speaks On Coverage Of Chauvin Trial


Just half a mile from the Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd died last summer, a small team of journalists covered the story as it evolved from neighborhood news to a global movement. Now the journalists of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder are covering the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer accused of George Floyd's murder. The Spokesman-Recorder is a newspaper for Minnesota's Black community by Minnesota's Black community. It is one of the oldest family-run papers in the country. The CEO and publisher, Tracey Williams-Dillard, joins us now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.


SHAPIRO: To start with a bit of history, your grandfather started two newspapers in 1934 that eventually merged to become the Spokesman-Recorder. Why did he found this paper?

WILLIAMS-DILLARD: Well, he came from Kansas City, Mo., to Minnesota, hoping that he had more opportunity here, more in the north than he did in the south, in terms of being the voice for the voiceless. But what he found out very soon was that he didn't move to the opportunity he had hoped. So when he came here, he found out that - his first exposure to racism was when he went to a restaurant and ordered a hamburger that was laced with salt. He knew then that he had still a lot of work to do.

SHAPIRO: How do you translate that mission that your grandfather felt almost a century ago of giving voice to the voiceless to the work that the Spokesman-Recorder is doing right now today?

WILLIAMS-DILLARD: It's still the same. You know, I look at it now, you know, George Floyd - I mean, there's so many different stories that we're telling that all seem to be a lot about the same.


WILLIAMS-DILLARD: You know, the reason my grandfather started the paper, it doesn't seem like none of it's changed from today.

SHAPIRO: Well, tell us about how the journalists of the Spokesman-Recorder are approaching this story of George Floyd's death and Derek Chauvin's trial. Is there something different that you think the Spokesman-Recorder brings to the coverage of this story from all the other organizations?

WILLIAMS-DILLARD: I watched some of the national news or even in the local news, and maybe they don't feel the Black perspective as we do. And I think the African American perspective is, like - it's like you're living it. It's your daily life. And I don't know that other medias look at it that way. They look at it as news, and we're looking at it as, like, we deal with this daily...


WILLIAMS-DILLARD: ...You know? It's like, we are afraid of our Black kids, you know, of our babies going out there and being mistreated.


WILLIAMS-DILLARD: But I don't want to see my grandkids go out there and have a cop on his neck.

SHAPIRO: Of course.

WILLIAMS-DILLARD: I don't want to see that.


WILLIAMS-DILLARD: You know, but that's our reality. That's how we're living right now.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. What do you think your grandfather, Cecil Newman, the paper's founder, would make of this moment in the United States?

WILLIAMS-DILLARD: I can't even begin to wonder what he would think. He would be disheartened, as all of us are. He would hope that this would not be a thing that we have to deal with.


WILLIAMS-DILLARD: You know, it's - the legacy of a Black man being killed, kneel of a white man on his neck - he would be devastated, as I am. And he would hope that, even in his time - at that time, he would have hoped that things had gotten better and not still the same.

SHAPIRO: Tracey Williams-Dillard is publisher and CEO of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Thank you for talking with us today.

WILLIAMS-DILLARD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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