Leveraging a Career in Journalism for Representation and Advocacy

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Natasha Alford is an award-winning journalist, host, and content creator. Natasha has interviewed prominent figures such as Congresswoman Maxine Walters, Senator Cory Booker, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Gloria Steinem, and more.

Natasha began her career in the corporate world, because that’s what she saw her friends and colleagues pursuing. She worked at the investment management firm eventually leaving to become a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C. through Teach For America. But she always knew that her heart was in journalism, and her time as a teacher honed her passion for education policy.

She pursued journalism with a focus on uncovering education policy in Washington D.C. Now, she’s grown her career in journalism as “The People’s Journalist.” She knows that it’s important to continually show up and embody representation as a journalist for other black women who are interested in pursuing this path, as well.

Journalism is a fascinating field, and Natasha says it perfectly when she says that she knows that it’s her job to ask questions, come back with a story, and walk into rooms with the intention of representing people who may not traditionally have a voice.

She believes that journalists are advocates. They’re those who hold those in power accountable - and they do it without favor. She feels strongly that journalists aren’t there to make people look good, they’re there to dig deeper and find the truth.

It’s for this reason that Natasha knows that diversity and inclusion are key in her field of journalism, and beyond. Having people ask truth-seeking questions as journalists when they come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences means that everyone is represented.

This episode is an amazing insight into the life of someone who is making history as a journalist, and who is pushing past traditional boundaries in her storytelling. If you’ve ever been interested in journalism, or just using your career to build a community, bring transparency to issues that matter to you, and represent people who may not have a voice - this episode is for you.

What You'll Learn:

  • How Natasha is striving to reduce stigma

  • How journalism impacts representation

  • Ways you can be transparent about your health and your story in your own career

  • The importance of bringing your true self to your career - and how that practice can impact others

Show Notes:

Episode Transcript

Rianka: 00:00 Natasha, the people's journalist. Welcome to 2050 TrailBlazers.

Natasha: 00:05 Thank you so much for having me, Rianka. Excited to be here.

Rianka: 00:09 I am excited to have you. So before we officially kick off season three of 2050 TrailBlazers, for the month of February, I want it to take a moment to highlight and celebrate the history makers outside of and within the financial service industry, and Natasha, I have been watching you in action since we met a couple of years ago and you are a phenomenal journalist and person overall.

Natasha: 00:37 Oh Wow. Thank you. My heart. My heart is warmed. I feel motivated now.

Rianka: 00:42 Yes, you have to keep on pushing because your voice is important and which I mean let's jump right on in. What was missing from the conversation that wanted to make you transition to become a journalist.

Natasha: 00:56 I like to think of it as an exciting game that you're watching from the sidelines and you just know that if you could get in there and play the game, you could score some points. And that's honestly how I felt about journalism. It was always a dream of mine to become a journalist. I was actually one of the co-editors for the high school paper, but when I got to college, I tell this story often, they just didn't have a journalism major. And so I think that like a lot of young people, you chase other people's models of success, right? And at the time a lot of people were going into the corporate world. They're going into finance, um, and setting themselves up for business school. And so rather than pursue journalism, which I also, I wasn't really sure how to pursue it at 18, I ended up taking a more traditional path working, uh, it for about five years.

Natasha: 01:50 And then starting to notice that in every job I took, I was always gravitating towards the same things, writing, presenting, you know, interacting with people. At the time I happened to be working at an education political lobbying firm out in California, and we were, watching the news a lot because, there was a lot of criticism actually of the organization that I worked for. And I just saw how important journalists were in terms of shaping a story. You know, whether people took a particular slant or they asked a certain type of question or just whatever they decided to focus on and a lot of ways that that had power. And so, I had some, some instincts to report on what was happening in the education space because, you know, I used to be a teacher. My Mom's a public school teacher, but it was even bigger than that.

Natasha: 02:46 I just felt like the voice that I was given needed to be used in journalism and I just wanted to get in the game. I felt like I would be at home. And sure enough I took that risk. Was in the middle of applying to business school, was actually a part of a program called MLT management leadership for tomorrow. And, just, you know, I'm writing these essays for, for Grad School and my coach is like, doesn't sound like you actually want to go to business school. It sounds like you want to do something else. So I applied to journalism school, got in and, yeah, I've been playing the game ever since.

Rianka: 03:22 Wow. That is a very interesting journey. And it kinda sounds like mine. I'm a financial planner. I had no idea you can be a financial planner because I didn't see that growing up. I just liked math and working with people and it, and it wasn't until I went to college that I found that you can have a career in financial planning. So it's very inspiring to hear that though you may not start your career in what your passion may be, you will eventually find it or your passion will find you, it sounds like.

Natasha: 03:54 Oh yeah. That is the number one thing I want people to ever take away from my story is that, you know, you have to listen to that inner voice and it's okay to leave, you know, it's okay to know when it's time to go. I always had an instinct that when I was doing something, you know, maybe I was enjoying it on a certain level, but I felt like there was more out there. And it can be scary to leave the comforts of a steady paycheck. Even just a path that other people might respect or people say, oh, you're good at that thing. You should, you should, I could always see you doing xyz. But if you know within yourself that there's more, that, that you, you don't feel like you're actually walking in your purpose, you've got to go out and get it. And don't worry about what other people think necessarily, or even what is the expected timeline. I didn't start journalism until I was like 27, 28 years old. And, I, I'm, I'm loving it and in many ways I think it's just, it's enhanced by the life experience that I had before I went into it.

Rianka: 04:59 Yes, yes. There is a reason for every path that you, that you walk on. And I think it just builds upon the journey that you're taking now. So I definitely agree with you on that. And you mentioned this, I'm a little bit in the beginning as far as representation and, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion is at the core of every conversation we have here on 2050 TrailBlazers. And for your profession, why is it so important to have journalists from every walk of life represented?

Natasha: 05:32 Yeah. Well, you know, I think to answer that question, we have to start with why is it important to have journalists, right? I know that, many members of the media have been under attack lately. It seems at least by certain, you know, political groups in this country who have characterized journalists as somehow the enemy of the people. But in many ways journalists are the advocates of, for the people. They are the people who hold those who are in power, accountable. You know, we ask questions that maybe people wouldn't think to ask and we're supposed to do so without favor, you know, we're not, necessarily there to make everyone look good. We're there to, to seek the truth. And so when you think about who is asking the questions, if you don't have, a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences represented in those rooms, that means certain questions simply aren't going to be asked.

Natasha: 06:34 And this is more than just, you know, diversity as a feel good thing. This question of diversity and inclusion has real consequences. And in the United States, we saw around the 1960s, there were all of these uprisings, urban unrest. Some people will call them riots in response to the racial tension that was going on in the country related to the civil rights movement. And there was a, it was called the Kerner commission that was put together to investigate what was going on and to try to get to some solutions. One of the things that they discovered in that entire research period was that the media played a huge role in maintaining racial segregation, maintaining systems of racism because they shaped perceptions. They, they shaped perceptions of African Americans. They shaped the perceptions of what America actually was. And in many ways they were ignoring entire segments of the population by not having black journalists, by not talking to black people, you know, not interviewing a variety of black people in covering issues in the black community.

Natasha: 07:54 And so coming out of that report, there were some recommendations that newspapers and media companies needed to hire more black American journalists, not just token hires, but literally like we needed representation beyond one. And so, you saw that there were organizations that came out of this time period, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which really became advocates for diversity in the industry. They became resources for journalists and reporters of color, and they also held companies accountable. And what's crazy is that, you know, we saw some increases over the years of diversity in the media industry, but we still hadn't reached goals that were set at the time of the Kerner commission report. In fact, a newsroom diversity, one of the goals was, was, you know, a newsroom parity by, by 2020. And they've pushed that goal back to 2025, because we just, you know, we haven't hit it. So, for anyone who questions why it matters, you know, listen, if you, if you don't have voices in the room, you're going to have people who disengage completely. And that leaves us more divided than then really united in our understanding what's happening in the world.

Rianka: 09:21 Wow. That is some very valuable information that I hope the listeners will dig into a little bit more. You know, that report that you mentioned, I'll try to find it and put it in the show notes. Is that public that we can share it?

Natasha: 09:36 That's a great question. So there's a lot of analysis and a news reports about the Kerner report itself. Last year was the 50th anniversary. So if you just look up the Kerner report, you will be able to find portions of it and you'll be able to find a lot of commentary about why we haven't achieved diversity in the industry yet. But what those, those hopes are.

Rianka: 10:01 And you know, it's something that we say in the financial planning world is, in order to be it, you have to see it. And so there's a lot of push around just showing and highlighting and celebrating, you know, financial planners, financial advisors of color, so that the next generation, the younger generation can see like, oh wow, this person is a financial advisor. Wow, I can be that too. And so for representation for journalists, that is so important. And it's, it's interesting that, you know, this conversation started over 50 years ago in the 1960s and then we have incidents like Brittany Noble Jones that happened a few weeks ago where from reports, there's a lot of different reports out there, but from what she mentioned, you know, there was, she's a black woman, she wore her hair natural and the next day she was let go.

Natasha: 10:53 Yeah. The, the story of, what happened with Brittany is one that is a really powerful story. And I just commend her for telling her truth and speaking honestly, because it can be tough. You know, the industry is small and, anytime you, you are critical of an employer, you are taking a risk and in many ways you're taking one for the team. But she, she said what needed to be said. I actually worked in local TV news as well. And I know that there is a perception of what is considered to be professional. Right? The look, and as she said in her story, you know, she was told to look like a beauty queen. Right? And for, for many people who are running these newsrooms, that is their perception of beauty. And when they say beauty queen, they're going by Eurocentric beauty standards, not anything beyond that.

Natasha: 11:49 And so, it can be very tough to be a black reporter, it can be very lonely and isolating. Oftentimes you're the only one who's in that newsroom or one of two. And so, you find yourself in a situation where you're not just representing yourself. You're expected to, you know, represent entire viewpoints or to kind of, dampen it down a bit, you know, to not be quote unquote too black, or, or too militant, or, or, or you just are expected to just be a brown face. And so, I think Brittany's story and, and there are other women who've experienced similar things. Men too with their own, you know, experiences with discrimination. We have to tell these stories because it pushes companies too to be accountable. So yeah, it's just a sign of things changing or needing to change.

Natasha: 12:51 But what I think is interesting is like when you look at digital media, I can think of quite a few black hosts who had their hair natural, you know, their hair is in twists or it's a locks or, it's styled all sorts of ways. And, and I would just say that, these traditional broadcast networks kind of need to catch up and get with the program. Because the, this generation that's coming up, their expectation of what a host is, or whatever a reporter should look like is kind of influenced by the Internet. And it's changing and it's shifting. So people who are stuck in a model, that doesn't reflect where we're going, I think in many ways are going to remain out of touch. And, with so many people who are cutting the cord, our generation and you know, especially we're the generation of Netflix and Hulu, I think that we just expect to see diversity. That's a part of our understanding of what the world is. And so, I think that's where we're going. Even if, you know, we still have these cases where unfortunately people are stuck in the past.

Rianka: 14:00 Yes. I think that's a great point as far as digital media versus the traditional media that comes on, you know, daytime television. You know, it has been said that our generation, the millennial generation, we don't applaud diversity. We notice it in its absence because we expect it. So it is expected of these companies just like you said to kind of get with the program, no pun intended, but. But get with the program and notice that America is, is a mosaic, you know, we have multiple different cultures represented and, you know, we want to see someone who looked like us on TV.

Natasha: 14:44 Absolutely.

Rianka: 14:44 I want to transition a bit. Where did the people's journalist come from?

Natasha: 14:52 Oh, that's a great question too. It's funny, I don't think I can pinpoint an exact time. I think right before I went on the breakfast club, I was doing an interview over the summer. I just, did a pretty big interview with Omarosa and I was going to talk about that interview and some other things and they just asked me to do a drop and I was just like, you know, it's Natasha Alford and I'm the people's journalist. I think the inspiration for that kind of comes from the people's champ. You know, thinking about, Mohammed Ali and any leader who is a champion of the people when they go to work. And as a journalist I want to walk into rooms and represent people who normally wouldn't be there. And I think about the community that I came from, you know, often aspiring to be in certain places, not sure if I would whatever make it, but I knew that I, I always looked at those places with awe.

Natasha: 15:51 And so now I get to be in these rooms and it's my job to ask questions. It's my job to come back with a story. And you know, I never forget where I come from. When I go home for all the privileges that I've had, and amazing experiences that I've had, a lot of things are still the same. You know, I still have two working class parents, they still, you know, have a mortgage to pay. I mean, it's like that always keeps me grounded and so it doesn't matter who I meet or how much money I make or how I ascend in this career, I want to be grounded in doing storytelling that affects everyday people.

Rianka: 16:30 Yes. Yes. And you know, I've noticed, you know, over the past couple of years that, you know, I've known you, you've become more open with your journey, you know, both professionally and also personally. And my question is, you know, how has being transparent, whether industry related, health related, how has this made you a better journalist and storyteller for the people?

Natasha: 16:57 Yeah. Well, I think there's power in transparency, right? And there's also power in silence and it's just a matter of how you choose to exercise your power. So when people are counting on you to not talk about something, it maintains a certain standard. But when you open your mouth and you talk about something that you're not supposed to quote unquote, you shift the dynamic and you kind of changed the rules. And, for me, I started talking a lot about health and wellness, over the past six months because I wanted the freedom to talk about my own story, as as well as to inspire other people to live in their truth and hopefully live better lives. Part of my story is that I was diagnosed with Lupus a few years ago and it was at the start of my immediate career in New York City. And it was a very scary time, for me, because I didn't know what it was.

Natasha: 17:51 It was very new. I didn't know how it would affect me, but I knew that my career was really important. And so rather than talk about it, I kind of carried that burden alone in a lot of ways. And I think that it kind of, it led to, just suffering unnecessarily, you know? Now I, I feel very much a part of a community. Lupus is actually an autoimmune illness that disproportionately affects African American women. So there are a lot of black women who, who face lupus and they deal with, various symptoms and it's different for everyone. And even men too. I think about, you know, Nick Cannon, popular media personality who has Lupus nephritis. Toni Braxton, Selena Gomez. And so once you start to see yourself as not by yourself, you can embrace that sense of community and I think that helps you to have the courage to come out and to talk about it.

Natasha: 18:53 So yeah, I was very much just ready to, to kind of share, connect with other people and also just reduce any stigma because frankly I think there's this assumption that if you're working and you're young and you're professional, you're on your grind. Like you're always expected to just be healthy all the time. You know, no one thinks about getting ill or dealing with health issues when they're young. Nobody wants to at least. But that is the reality for many of us. And I would love to see a cultural shift where we, we're real about supporting each other through those things. We don't just say it in theory, but like if you have to take a day, a mental health day or a sick day, like you take it because ultimately if you don't, you're going to end up having to take many sick days to take care of yourself.

Natasha: 19:45 Or you know, you may develop vices, you know, abusing substances, those sorts of things to cope with the, the real issues that you don't want to deal with. So I just think it runs again at whether we're talking about self care, you know, emotional health, mental health, physical health, honesty is really a powerful thing and I'm just, I feel great to to be honest about what has been like to, to live with Lupus, but also just, you know, in general, trying to live a healthier lifestyle that balances work, taking care of myself and the people that I love.

Rianka: 20:27 Absolutely. Thank you. And thank you for sharing your story and being transparent. You, I mean, you inspired me before, but again, just following, following you and you being so open on social media and sharing that you have lupus. And and I was just like, wow. And just embracing it and continuing to cheer you on. And, and what it allows, I believe is the ability for people to give you grace, you know? Instead of like suffering in silence, it's, you know, allowing people to give you grace. And, I think it's taboo to talk about health or mental health, especially in the black community. It is especially taboo to talk about finances and the black community

Natasha: 21:13 preach, preach. That's another one we got to talk about.

Rianka: 21:18 We definitely need to talk about that. And, and so I just, when I believe when you have a platform, God has given me that platform as a responsibility and for you to take this head on and be transparent not only with your professional career and giving advice, but also personal, I am sure it is inspiring many other people as well as to not only become a journalist, but also to be transparent about their health and just like, I'm human. Wow.

Natasha: 21:48 Well that that is, I'm really encouraging. I appreciate you saying that and you too have been inspirational in your own way and telling your story. And yet anyone who is listening to this podcast, you know, shifting the culture starts with us. That goes for anything. I mean even thinking about me too, there was a time when talking about being a victim of sexual assault, you know, that was not something that people necessarily wanted to identify themselves as because there was so much stigma, right? And there was so much blame and sadly there's still is as we can see from a lot of the reactions to survivors who have come forward. But I do think a shift is happening and that's because somebody walked in their truth and, and they, they owned it and they weren't afraid to talk about their trauma and, and to just express that, you know, you are not necessarily what you are going through, right?

Natasha: 22:42 Like if you, if you deal with a chronic illness, you are not that illness. You are still who you are. It's something that you went through with something that shapes your life, but you have a whole identity outside of that. And so, yeah, we, we got to keep doing that and yeah, I think the money thing is going to be huge. Well, people don't want to talk about their finances. They want to stunt on the graham who wants to talk about how much it costs to take that trip. You couldn't afford to take or you know, where those clothes, whatever, right. That can be embarrassing, but how amazing would it be to talk about like how you saved to get the house, you know, how you made those investment decisions. Like we need to put each other on game for free, 99, because other communities are doing that and you know, we, we have to lift as we climb as they say.

Rianka: 23:37 Yes we do. And, though February is all about, you know, celebrating the history makers, you know, our podcast outside of it where we do be talking about, you know, money and finances. So, thank you for tuning in to, to Natasha's episode. But if you want to learn more about money, come back for future episodes for sure. So Natasha, I know that for me personally, it takes a community to, or it, it took a village to raise me. It, it's still taking a village to help me. And I'm sure the same is for you. You know, one of my favorite TD Jakes quotes, bishop TD Jakes, is that people who are gifted cannot see it. You can see everyone else, but you cannot see yourself. When you are truly gifted, you are blind to yourself. So it makes you ask questions like, who do men say that I am? You are vulnerable to the voices around you. They become your mirror. So Natasha, who is on your team,

Natasha: 24:49 oh, can I just like give you an applause, a handclap for that whole quote because that is so real. Listen, I call them my board of directors. These are the people who are in my circle of influence. I trust them. I know that they want the best for me. They're not in competition with me because they are 100% secure in themselves and they don't mind pouring into me, you know, because they see it as an investment. My board of directors, it's a very diverse group. I have people who've known me, you know, before I went, went to college, people who have known me from when I was in my first job trying to figure it out. And people who've known me from journalism just today, I emailed the professor from Northwestern because I'm working on a story. And this professor, even though I'm years out of school, responded within 10 minutes, willing to help me.

Natasha: 25:52 So if your board of directors isn't willing to, to, to pour into you and, and to be there for you, it's time to find a new board. Those people are the ones who help you to make decisions but also help you to see yourself. As you said, sometimes we don't see ourselves. We forget the battles that we won in the past. We forget just how far we've come, especially for those of us who are really ambitious and we're always trying to get to the next level. So having people who can level set for you, who can remind you of your victories, your challenges, but also just like what you stand for, I think is, is essential. And I know that I am, you know, I am where I'm at, I am who I am. Because there were so many people that believed in me and who were insistent on reminding me like what I set out to do. So yeah, I, I haven't named their names, but they know who they are. They come from many different phases of my life and I think that that's really important to have that perspective long term.

Rianka: 27:11 Yeah, I totally agree with you. You hit a nerve. I think for many listeners when you said the people around you, you want to make sure that they are not in competition with you and that they can just pour into you and then you can also pour into them. I think it's definitely a two way street. But I think that is so powerful to make sure that you have people around you, especially when when you feel like you're failing or when you feel like you're in quicksand and you just like, ah, you know, I'm, I'm not doing well. I thought I was doing good. And it's like, no, Natasha, you, do you see your track record? Do you see all of this? All of these things that you have done. And it's just kind of like a reality check of like, okay, all right, I'm just tripping right now.

Natasha: 27:59 Yeah, yeah, it happens to all of us, I even before this podcast I was having a moment cause I'm like, I took on an ambitious project but now I'm in the middle of it. I'm like, oh, how am I going to get through this? And, but I have to remind myself that this literally happens every time I do a video, it's, you know, it's like making sausage. It's, the process is messy, but at the end it always comes out beautifully. And so there's no, there's no way around it. You've just got to go through it. And when you're facing those storms, just take a moment to recognize where you are. You're in the middle of something, you're working towards something and you know with faith and perseverance and work, you can get through it.

Rianka: 28:43 Absolutely. And I am 100% believer in that. I get myself in situations too of just like, how am I going to do this? But I have faith, I have faith in God that I, this project was not put in front of me for me to fail. If anything, it was put in front of me to teach me, to stretch me, to, for me to learn how to ask for help and, and he is going to put the people around you that needs to be around you at that specific time for you to get it done. And I'm pretty sure I'm 110% sure the project that you're working on now, I know what you're working on, but I'm not going to tell the listeners, but the project that you're working on now are going to come out phenomenal because you have a track record of nothing but perfection.

Natasha: 29:26 Thank you so much. You know, I have to say, I wanted to say something about the whole competition piece now, just as a clarification for anyone, it is okay to have people who inspire you to be better, if that makes sense, right? Because they are so on point. So it's just, it's like, okay, I need to be around people who it's okay for me to fail in front of them to be honest in front of them because, you know, there's no sense of insecurity about being real with us, but it doesn't mean that they don't push me to be better. I have plenty of friends who do that because they are so on point. I'm like, I, they bring out the best in me. So just I wanted to make that note that there is a such thing as like iron sharpens iron. And, while we're on this subject, just making another plug for talking openly about salary negotiations. You know, my, my group chat, my girls from college, we just had a whole conversation about negotiations and salary and we were advising each other and, and just talking about strategy. And like those conversations, talk about those things. Salary, housing, investments as much as you talk about, you know, where you're going to grab drinks or do brunch, that that is literally how we grow as a community. That's how we make each other better. And it's, it's really taking advantage of the God given talent that we have.

Rianka: 30:58 You are preachin' today, honey.

Natasha: 30:59 I think we just preachin' to each other. That's all.

Rianka: 31:03 Yes, yes. With the community, with the, you know, from you inspiring other people, not only within the journalism community but outside. And, your willingness to always give back in 2018, you were awarded the National Association of Black Journalists, Emerging Journalist of the Year award.

Natasha: 31:26 Congratulations. Thank you. That was one of the, the highest honors of my career. Rianka: 31:32 Yeah. What did it mean to you? What, yeah, what did it mean to you?

Natasha: 31:36 I think it was just confirmation that I was on the right path. You know, when you, win something like that early in your career, it's, it's just a recognition to keep going, you know, I'm obviously not stopping. I, I think that the work is far from done and I have a lot of goals, but it's okay to take a step back and to say good job so far, you know, and, and I really think that's what it was when I went into journalism. I took a huge risk. I left a really comfortable salary. You know, I sold all my furniture out in California and, and drove to Chicago, to start Grad school. And there were no guarantees that I would make money, you know journalism is not, necessarily lucrative for the majority of people who go in. There are definitely people at the top who make millions, but for many, you know, they're working really hard and, and oftentimes they don't get paid exactly what they deserve.

Natasha: 32:35 You know, relative to the impact of the work that they're doing. And so there were no guarantees. I slept on an Air BnB mattress, you know, for a couple of weeks when I first came to New York with The Grio because it wasn't a full time job. It was just a freelance gig to start. But I wanted to impress them and get that full time offer. And so I just, you know, I, I paid for an Air BnB and hope for the best and really just grinded and within a few weeks I was able to get that full time job offer. So, a lot of sacrifices were made. It was not easy at all. And there were many times I wanted to give up. Many times I've thought I was crazy for having done this, many times I, you know, looked at friends going on vacations and, you know, being able to go to weddings and buy presents and you know, they didn't have to scrape together money and I just felt really ashamed. Like I wished that I was more together, but I was making that short term sacrifice for a long term vision. And I think when you are in the midst of chasing a dream, you always have to have that bigger picture handy because your circumstances are going to test your will constantly. And if you are able to access that vision and keep it in front of you, it allows you to work through the short term disappointment and just understand that it's all part of the process.

Rianka: 34:03 Yes. Oh my goodness. Yes. You are preachin' today, honey. And it's what you mentioned about the short term sacrifices for the long term reward, especially when it comes to finances, especially when you, when you try to compare where you are today with folks on social media, I think people need to realize it's just a, a movie reel of their life that's only showing the positives. Like the people who are going on those vacations, you don't know if they're going into debt to go on them. And so we cannot compare ourselves to each other and I feel like we need to, cause we keep touching on money and I feel like we need to just have a whole 'nother episode.

Natasha: 34:43 Yes. Welcome me back, I'll be taking notes on that one though, I won't have much to say. Just go listen. That's all.

Rianka: 34:51 We definitely have to circle back and talk about money as entrepreneurs, as within the black community with investing. And just the trends that I see in the black community with my first generation wealth, is what I call them, if they're first generation college graduates and they're coming into real, real money, real salary, and this is their opportunity to build wealth and so many pitfalls to building wealth, that I just want to scream at the mountain tops to help the community. So, so yes, we will definitely have to circle back there.

Rianka: 35:25 With winning, you know, this award with leveraging the community that you have, you know, we have to pay homage to the folks who came before us, you know, and I saw recently Dorothy Butler Gillum was the first black reporter at the Washington Post and she has a memoir out. And I saw you just posted it recently. What was some of the things that she went through to pave the way for journalists today?

Natasha: 35:52 Yes. So, Dorothy Butler Gilliam is a trailblazer, both literally and figuratively, literally in the sense that she's written this memoir about being the first black woman reporter at the Washington Post. And, and figuratively, because, you know, it was the, the first people, the, the people who entered newsrooms when there wasn't diversity, right. Who really took it for the rest of us, they, were willing to take a lot of loneliness. They're willing to take a lot of pressure, discrimination, in order to do their jobs and really opened the door so we could come into these industries. Dorothy Butler Gilliam, when she was a reporter at the Washington Post, couldn't even catch a taxi cab, just to get from one story to the next because she was black and they, they wouldn't pick her up even as a woman. She wants described having to sleep over in a funeral home because she wasn't able to get a hotel because she was a black woman.

Natasha: 37:00 She would, you know, see her colleagues who in the newsroom would be willing to speak to her, but outside of the building they would pretend that they didn't see her. And so you just have to think about the, the pressure of being a woman in journalism back in the 1960s and then the, the added a reality of being a black woman and being the only, and being the first, that's a, that's a tough job. And that, I'm not sure a lot of us, would, would put up with a lot of the things that she had to deal with. But we did the story because, you know, there's been a lot of conversation about, people in media who we admire and, you know, we're celebrating and we're also talking about what they're going through. I'm dealing with this administration, particularly a lot of White House reporters, black women who have been disrespected on the job. And talking about Dorothy's experience just provides more context. You know, it, it just goes to show that we've always had to fight and we've always had to be twice as good. To, to be present in these, these rooms. And so you have to remember the shoulders that you stand on, that you're not alone in the work that you're doing, that people before you have endured and they made it. And so I think it just kind of encourages the next generation to keep going.

Rianka: 38:26 Wow. And I cannot wait til that is posted. I believe by the time your interview airs it should be posted. So I will share the link, to the listeners. Yeah, I'll put it in the show notes. That will be amazing. And, just I'm sure hearing her story, it transcend, transcends to many different industries as well

Natasha: 38:50 Oh, it absolutely does. I mean, again, we are not that far removed from the civil rights movement. I just, I have to say that. And so we are still experiencing firsts today, cause people who are the first in their industry or in their company. And so, when you hear the stories of these trailblazers or you think about black history, the inspiration really hits close to home and is very applicable and just kind of reminds you of the strength of, of where you come from. And I, there's this quote by the Great Doctor Maya Angelou, where, I don't know it exactly, I won't repeat the quote word for word, but the message is that when you walk into a room as one, you are representing, you know, the 10 thousands, all of the ancestors who were before you are in that room with you. And so I just think it's a way to feel encouraged and, and not alone. And also, you know, a way to really never have an excuse.

Rianka: 39:53 Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, and speaking about, you know, we've come, I wouldn't say a long way, but we've, we've come some ways and in various different industries. And so what are some of the successes happening in the journalism space in regards to diversity, equity and inclusion? Or what are some of the signs that you see that are, that are, are encouraging for black and brown people who are looking into becoming a journalist?

Natasha: 40:23 Yeah, well I will say that, you know, the, the existence of organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, us continuing to have these groups and have these conferences and communities is definitely encouraging because you can always go to them and know that you are not alone in your career journey. And NABJ was huge for helping me when I was trying to transition careers. I think that frankly, the honesty of the Internet, you know, we have this kind of blow back a couple of weeks ago or a few weeks ago where there was a news team, a digital news team announced for 2020 elections and there was not a single African American reporter pictured and the Internet just kind of, blew up. You know, people said that it was completely unacceptable and within not even a couple of days, the company at the CBS was the company responded saying they were planning to hire more African American reporters.

Natasha: 41:37 You know, they would definitely address diversity and make sure that something like that never happened again. And so I just think that that is the power of social media, that our voices in this fight are amplified. Something else I've seen a lot is threads where, somebody will post and say, you know, please post all of your jobs for writers of color specifically for writers of color. And so, we're just getting people who are sharing information, and, and reaching people in ways that, you know, a recruiter sometimes won't, or, you know, a manager basically no longer has that excuse of, Oh, well I can't find black talent when, you know, we're really everywhere. We're concentrated in these, Twitter groups and Facebook groups and, and other organizations. So I think there's a lot of work to do. I don't think that we're yet where we need to be, but I'm encouraged by the way that we're using our voices, the way that we're advocating for ourselves and the way that we're advocating for each other.

Rianka: 42:48 I agree. I definitely agree. Well, Natasha, before I let you go, one more question for you. Natasha: 42:54 Oh, what is it?

Rianka: 42:57 So as you look back on your career, on your journey, what are some of the ways that you've invested in yourself, either personally or professionally, that has supported the growth of you as a person?

Natasha: 43:13 Well, when it comes to my career, I think one of the best things that I could have done was to invest in learning how to use editing software. A lot of journalists, particularly those who work on camera may come to depend on other people to edit their material. But I actually know how to edit. I know how to shoot with a camera as well. And that's just allowed me to exercise a lot of freedom editorially and just have a lot of autonomy, and really create content in the way that I want to see it. So taking classes, going on youtube, really, I'm self taught in some ways, in other ways. You know, I'm using skills that I learned in graduate school, but, doing more than what was expected of me as a reporter I think has certainly helped me out in my career. And just allowed me to have a lot of freedom in terms of personal investment. I think there are no trips I've taken, which I have, I've ever regretted. There's, there's been no, no trip. I mean, I, I talk about this all the time, but you know, I traveled to carnival and the Caribbean. You know,

Rianka: 44:37 I am so jealous every time I see you go, I'm like, one year I'm going to get up the courage. First of all, to put myself in costume. Oh my gosh.

Natasha: 44:50 Yeah. And I think, you know, whether it's carnival or whether it's, you know, taking rock climbing classes or tennis classes or whatever. Like when you find your thing, you have to build that into your schedule and make time. It refreshes you. It reminds you that life is more than a job. Life is more than, you know, just a career or whatever your productivity is according to someone else. Like you just have perspective. So there's never been, yeah, there's never been a trip I've taken where it's like, oh, I should have just done more work. It's like, no, you needed, you needed those trips. So, so that's an investment in myself. I also have just been investing in my craft, like I mentioned, you know, the software and learning how to edit but also going to conferences, like the investigative reporters and editors conference.

Natasha: 45:50 I think that we are in a culture where things do appear to happen quickly for people. And it's true in many ways. The Internet has kind of accelerated people's ability to be seen right? And to build a following. But there's no substitute for really knowing your craft and doing the work. And I just think that like sometimes we want to skip past the work part to kind of get to the glory and it's like it's okay to sit in that work, you know, it's okay to get good. You don't need to be recognized right away. And so, um, yeah, getting books, about journalism and editing and writing, going to conferences, meeting other experts and, and really just learning. I don't think I've ever stopped being a student of journalism even though this is my job every day because there's something to learn every single day.

Rianka: 46:46 And Natasha, it shows, it really does. And I just want to let you know how grateful I am of you coming on 2050 TrailBlazers. I know you are in between huge projects right now and so I am very grateful for your time and for you just sharing all of this knowledge and wisdom with us today.

Natasha: 47:06 Thank you so much Rianka for having me. I think this is an incredible idea, especially for black history month, but also just for our community. And I know that I'm not in the finance industry, but I hope there are parts of my story that are helpful for anyone really.

Rianka: 47:23 We are celebrating all of the trailblazers and history makers and you are definitely one of them.

Natasha: 47:31 Thank you so much. Happy Black History Month everybody.