Digital managing editor on running a Black news site in the new normal

April Ryan, D.C. Bureau and new television network advances theGrio's mission
Marcom Weekly StaffFebruary 1, 20219 min

COVID, lockdowns and massive protests against racial injustice moved a lot of news organizations to pivot how and where they cover the news and theGrio is no exception. is the first video-centric news community site devoted to providing African-Americans with stories and perspectives that appeal to them but are underrepresented in existing national news outlets.

Previously owned by NBC Universal, Entertainment Studios purchased theGrio in 2016 with a goal to be the news portal that satisfies the desire of Black Americans to stay informed and connected with their community.

As the news site focused on news and events that impact the national Black audience, it leaned into covering the politics behind the social justice movement and COVID-19’s effect on Black citizens. “Race played a role in all of it,” Gerren Keith Gaynor, theGrio’s managing editor, tells Marcom Weekly.

“These conversations about race and racial bias have been the very core of why Black media was instituted in the first place. Not to mention, conversations about medical bias, police brutality, the racial wealth gap and environmental justice are issues we at theGrio, and our fellow Black media colleagues, have been reporting about and sounding the alarm on for years.”

Many of these topics had been covered regularly by Black news outlets.

“In all honesty, it was a matter of mainstream media catching up to us. I think our role now is to be more unapologetic in our coverage and continue to push mainstream media forward and continue to be a reflection back to our communities,” says Gaynor, “because we know that when it comes to predominantly white media companies, there will continue to be blind spots.”

While the convergence of a public health crisis and systemic racial violence in America brought the country to a standstill last year, it didn’t stop owner Byron Allen, founder and CEO of Entertainment Studios and Allen Media Group, who meticulously grew the news organization’s reach and influence.

Allen acquired over-the-air broadcast television network Light TV and converted it to TheGrio.TV television network on January 15 – the start of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. The free premium network airs award-winning movies, contemporary comedy and classic TV shows focused on the African American community. Delivering compelling stories and perspectives through cutting-edge news reports and in-depth interviews, TheGrio.TV presents extended news content, lifestyle, arts and community programming for 100 million U.S. households via over-the-air broadcast television stations, cable/telco/satellite platforms, and free digital streaming.

“TheGrio.TV is especially important to me as it will both serve and uplift all viewers,” Allen wrote in a press announcement. He added, “TheGrio.TV is the first and only 100 percent African American-owned and targeted broadcast television network and free digital platform – making us truly authentic, without being filtered or controlled by others outside of the community.”

TheGrio also named veteran Washington, D.C. correspondent April Ryan in the dual role of White House correspondent and Washington, D.C. bureau chief.

“It is a new era in our nation! Not only do we have new leaders, but it is a new season for me professionally,” said Ryan. “After nearly 24 years, I am beginning a new chapter and bringing my political expertise to Byron Allen’s media company as well as continuing my work as a political analyst for CNN.”

Ryan is the 2019 ‘Freedom of the Press Award Winner’ and previously served on the board of the prestigious White House Correspondents Association and is an esteemed member of the National Press Club. Her first book, “The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Four Presidents and Race in America,” was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

TheGrio’s successful expansion into broadcast television and politics is supported by the site’s editorial success. The site landed major interviews with the likes of now Vice President Kamala Harris; Stacey Abrams; Senator Cory Booker; House Whip Jim Clyburn; newly-elected Senators Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and others. In December, Comscore reported as the top news in its competitive set among Black news sites.

“First and foremost, we have a talented and diverse editorial team that is intergenerational and consists of journalists with varied backgrounds,” says Gaynor. “We could not have achieved our number one status in December had it not been for the dedication of our team.”

Gaynor lauded Byron Allen’s investment and trust in addition to the organization’s mission to reach every Black American, whether it be young people or Black women, with much of its success.

“We also have diversified and modernized the mediums in which audiences can access and engage theGrio, whether it be our original video offerings, our podcasts or even our social media presence — all of this helps us inform and drive our editorial coverage.”

In addition to serving as theGrio’s managing editor, Gaynor also co-hosts its first original podcast, “Dear Culture,” alongside theGrio’s social media director, Shana Pinnock. The show is a weekly pod about news and issues impacting Black America from the reporters and producers at theGrio.

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