Radio talk show personality Karen Hunter and her listeners spearheaded the petition that brought down the Confederate Flag at the South Carolina statehouse after the 2015 Charleston 9 massacre.
Now Hunter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist-turned-political activist, is using tech to plan a massive voter registration drive for 2018.
A popular Sirius XM Radio host, Hunter created The Party of Lincoln app through crowdfunding and the #TechTuesday movement. In December 2016, the app was named the No. 1 influencer in govtech, according to Hunter’s publicist. Govtech is a term used to describe the nascent ecosystem of startups and tech companies working to digitalize government.
Hunter’s Sirius XM Radio show, “The Karen Hunter Show” on Channel 126 was recently named one of the “Heavy Hundred” — the 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America by industry bible Talkers Magazine.
A former sports and news reporter with the New York Daily News for 16 years, Hunter served four of those years on the editorial board. She was a member of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize- and Polk Award-winning teams. She was also the publication’s first African-American female news columnist.
A bestselling author, Hunter is the head of Karen Hunter Books, an imprint with Simon & Schuster. She has published New York Times bestsellers “True You” by Janet Jackson, “Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian” by Kris Jenner, and “Mama Dearest” by E. Lynn Harris. In 2014, Karen Hunter Books released “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” by Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Hunter also published the critically acclaimed autobiographical novel, “An Angry-Ass Black Woman” by Karen Quinones Miller.
Striving to make social change, Hunter authored the petition to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse in South Carolina. More than 500,000 people signed the petition in its first three days. Within a week, Gov. Nikki Haley vowed to take down the flag.
On top of all that, Hunter is a full-time professor in the Film & Media Department at Hunter College.
Hunter talked to Moguldom about her plans for her app, and why she moved into tech.
Moguldom: Why did you want to create The Party of Lincoln app?
Karen Hunter: We kept hearing “our vote doesn’t matter” from listeners who felt disenfranchised or disrespected. We wanted to create an app that would engage and empower. Party of Lincoln app is non-partisan. It has history lessons (why do we have an electoral college, etc.), resources (the constitution and how to file a FOIA) and calls to action (run for office and contact your congressman). You can even register to vote through the app. It’s a one-stop shop for civic engagement and the No. 1 app in the govtech.
Moguldom: How did you fund the app?
Karen Hunter: We did crowdfunding through the show with just our audience and reached our goal in four days.
Moguldom: How does the app work?
Karen Hunter: It has three sections — act, learn, share. In the ‘act’ section, we have given people the power to do everything from sign a petition, to restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, to run for office or support a candidate running for office through our partnership with Crowdpac.org. In the ‘learn’ section, there are videos from historian Kenneth C. Davis, who breaks down the history of our electoral process and civics teacher, L. Joy Williams, who explains the power of our vote. You can share with folks through social media what you’ve learned.
Moguldom: Were you into tech prior to the app?
Karen Hunter: No. In fact, I was a bit of a Luddite, but when I learned that there will be a million-plus jobs in need of tech skills in the United States and the pay starts at around $75K and you don’t need a college degree, I felt that my audience needed to get into this space. Also, Black people only represent 2 percent of tech. If I wanted to change that, I needed to provide a platform to show people how to get into tech and provide them with the resources and the skills to take advantage of the opportunities. On KarenHunterShow.com, we have eight pages of resources where you can learn where you can go to learn how to code, get funding for your tech idea, and support to help you create it. And building Party of Lincoln was just another way to provide our audience with the tools to get involved in tech. If I can do it, anyone can.
Moguldom: Why do you feel such an app is necessary?
Karen Hunter: In 2016, more than 100 million Americans decided to stay home. Not only have people fought and died for the right to vote, but this democracy/republic only works when we are all involved. Party of Lincoln takes away the excuses.
Moguldom: Do you promote the app?
Karen Hunter: We don’t, really. We talk about it on our show and several shows on SiriusXM have had us on to discuss. We have been on the Tom Joyner morning show but Party of Lincoln’s success has been primarily word-of-mouth and grassroots. We like that people are discovering it and sharing it and becoming crusaders for it.
Moguldom: How did “The Karen Hunter Show” come about?
Karen Hunter: After being out of radio for 10-plus years and guest hosting and even starting a blog talk radio show, I was finally invited to do a 30-day trial run on SiriusXM in August of 2014. The rest is history.
Moguldom: What are some of your goals with the show?
Karen Hunter: To close the wealth gap between blacks and whites; to erase racism (by constantly showing that race is a made-up construct and how we have so much more in common); to get people thinking and acting on being healthy (#WellnessWednesday); and to inspire people to find their purpose and live their best lives.
Moguldom: How is the show different for you than working in print media?
Karen Hunter: Instant connection. I know the impact of my words in the moment because people let me know on social media and by calling. And radio is so much more intimate and connected.
Moguldom: How involved should media be in social change?
Karen Hunter: Very. Unfortunately, media lost its soul and is responsible for a lot of the discourse we are seeing in society because it decided to chase ratings and eyeballs instead of truth. Now media must be responsible for fixing it.
Moguldom: What was the experience like being on an editorial board?
Karen Hunter: Eye-opening. I learned the blueprint for winning. I also learned how power works.
Moguldom: What were some of the challenges of being the NY Daily News’ first African-American female news columnist?
Karen Hunter: Finding my authentic voice and being unafraid to use it.
Moguldom: Are you still running Karen Hunter Books (KHB), an imprint with Simon & Schuster?
Karen Hunter: I am still CEO of Karen Hunter Books but being on SiriusXM and preaching ownership and empowerment daily has forced me to live by my words and take my own advice. I am shifting the focus … into a space I totally own and control. Stay tuned.
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