Black Male Publishers Bring Necessary Voices To Digital Media Industry

Black Male Publishers Bring Necessary Voices To Digital Media Industry

Black Male Publishers
Meet some of the prolific Black male publishers who have launched digital media sites to own their narratives and authentically tell their own stories. Photos: Dan Runcie, founder of Trapital, left, and Torraine Walker, founder of Context Media. Photos provided.

Black men matter. And so do their voices. It’s one of the reasons there is a surge of Black male publishers entering the digital media industry. Whether it’s the business of hip-hop, commentary on current events or raw, uncut opinions, nobody tells a story quite like a Brother. Meet some of the prolific Black men who have launched digital media sites to own their narratives and authentically tell their own stories.

Torraine Walker – Context Media

After spending years in corporate America, then working as a journalist in mainstream media, Torraine Walker realized there was a problem.

“I came into the journalism industry around the time when Mike Brown happened and all the uprisings started around Ferguson and there was a lot of conversations around police brutality, so a lot of my bylines were about those issues,” Walker told Moguldom in an exclusive interview.

Context Media Group Publisher Torraine Walker

Walker said he found many of his editors were only interested in bylines that fit a certain angle.

“I started noticing that a lot of the conversations that were being had around that (Ferguson) in mainstream media sources had a lot of sensationalism,” Walker said. “People always showed up when something was on fire or there was somebody yelling in front of the camera, but nobody really wanted to talk to the people who lived in the community that were affected by that; and I had a lot of resistance from editors when I wanted to do those stories that weren’t sensationalized.”

Growing weary of trying to convince his editors why certain stories were important, Walker decided he would publish them himself.

“I thought there were a lot of stories from regular working-class Black people and other people of color that needed to be told and they weren’t being told,” Walker said.

He wrote a lot of opinion pieces about issues affecting Black people that he published on social media. When he began getting an overwhelming response from others who felt the same way he did, he decided to create a formal space for marginalized voices.

“There were a lot of people who are journalists and writers who felt they were marginalized the same way, so I felt, ‘Why not create an outlet so people can be heard,’” Walker said.

Enter Context Media Group, Walker’s digital media site, which launched officially in 2019. According to its website, Context “is a digital media company that produces documentaries, in depth interviews, and multimedia content providing insight into people and events at the center of current issues.”

Based in Atlanta, Walker uses his decade of experience as an award-winning journalist to mine for stories relevant to everyday people. While his norm includes location interviews with subjects, the covid-19 pandemic has caused him to pivot and work via Zoom like the rest of the world.

“I’ve had to improvise a lot and move a lot of my equipment in my house and do it from there,” Walker told Moguldom. “The good thing about that is because everything is pretty much moved internally, I can get a lot more content out to a wider audience, so there’s opportunity there.”

Context publishes content such as “Wednesday’s Wisdom,” brief videos that cover Black history, politics and more. To keep his content authentic, Walker is cautious of the advertisers he takes on.

“If you have a message and an audience you want to appeal to its very important you don’t do anything to betray their trust,” Walker said. “Certain advertisers are not just giving you money to advertise, they also want to give you advice and … if they have the option to pull their advertising if you say something, or you voice an opinion or you publish somebody that doesn’t agree with their view, then you’re at their mercy and that’s very dangerous. It’s dangerous for your brand and it’s dangerous for your integrity.”

He said he believes voices like his are critical to digital media because they offer an appropriate context to things (pun intended).

“I think it’s important for Black men to be involved in the digital media space because a lot of times Black men are the subjects of stories, but we’re not really allowed to tell our own stories,” Walker said. “We’re either being spoken about or we’re asked to comment on things that may not really pertain to us as far as our personal experiences, so I think it’s important for a Black man to have an outlet that speaks to other Black men so they can identify with that. I think it’s necessary. Every other group in our community is able to find an outlet for that. We don’t and I think it’s important that Black men speak to other Black men about issues that are affecting us as a group and the larger community.”

Walker is currently looking for writers who cover “content that centers on the Black experience in America and the African Diaspora.” Whether they are academics, working class or poor people, Walker is courting a broad spectrum of writers who will “speak to every type of genre and social class.” He said he wants to highlight how people are living their lives and managing their days.

“I think the public is hungry for authentic stories that don’t come through gatekeepers that want you to tailor you story to fit an audience so broad they won’t get the real passion of what somebody has to say. I think Context Media can help provide that along with other platforms that are coming up that I’ve heard of. I think you’re going to see a Renaissance in Black publishing soon,” Walker said.

Dan Runcie – Trapital

Trapital Publisher Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie identified a niche need in digital media after starting a side hobby as a writer on Medium while working full-time in strategic partnerships at an edtech company. He noticed that some media sites covered hip-hop, others covered business, but none were extensively covering the business of hip-hop and the strategy behind it.

Enter Trapital – Runcie’s San Francisco-based brainchild which fills in the gap. Runcie launched the outlet in March 2018 after being asked to contribute his content to various media including Complex and Wired.

“I started to get hit up by different outlets that wanted me to write for them … and I said ‘OK, you know there’s really something here.’ I have a whole other opportunity outside of what I’m doing full-time,” Runcie said. “As I started to get more and more known in the space, I realized there was an opportunity for a niche publication that focused on the business of hip-hop in the way I’d seen other niche publications thrive. … I said this needs to be highlighted and needs to be done in a better way.”

Runcie told Moguldom in a 2019 interview that he decided to forego taking venture capitalists’ (VC) funding in the beginning. Instead he opted to do paid subscriptions, which he recently paused, but plans to resume in the future in a different way.

“I ended my paid subscription services because I realized there was a better opportunity to serve my audience given how it had grown. I felt like the type of product I had was … a catch-all,” Runcie shared. “I figured it made more sense to think a bit more deeply about who the people were that were reading Trapital and why were they reading it.”

Known for its deep-dive, long-form content, Trapital has readers that consist of both “people who want to read good quality, long-form writing” and “a subset of folks who were reading Trapital to gain the business insights that were relevant to their day-to-day work,” Runcie said. He decided it would better to more narrowly focus his efforts.

Like Walker at Context, Runcie had to pivot Trapital from in-person interviews to virtual ones due to covid-19. The upside is it motivated him and others to up their audio-visual equipment game, Runcie said.

“I’m not traveling anymore so that pushes them (interviews) to be done digitally given the circumstances we are in now,” Runcie said. “It made me determine how I could improve the connection so it could be as good as possible, and not only did it improve on my end, it also helped the people I’m interviewing to have the best digital audio-visual equipment.”

Another silver lining of the pandemic has been that traffic is up.

“People are at home and can’t go many places, so naturally consuming content has become more of the things that have filled up our time. That’s been a silver lining that has been not only in my favor, but also other digital media publishers I have spoken to,” Runcie said.

It’s important for him and other Black male publishers to contribute their voices in digital media to eliminate misrepresentation, Runcie said.

“Traditionally a lot of us didn’t always have control of our narratives. Having ownership of our platforms in a lot of ways eliminates the ebbs and flows that are decided by people that don’t necessarily understand the culture as much as we do,” Runcie told Moguldom. “There’s great stock and there’s great opportunity to take advantage of all of the interest and push that’s there. … I’ve seen some great stuff come from a lot of my peers in this space, especially the Black folks and I want to see people do more, create more and ultimately help push each other to get to stronger places.”

When asked his advice for other Black men who want to enter the space, Runcie encouraged aligning their passions with their pens.

“I’d say specifically to other Black males and people that want to succeed in this space, think about what you are most personally interested in and where’s there’s a space that you think you can own because the passion and personality you have with that will always shine through,” Runcie said. “In this media space, whether it’s the biggest media companies or the smallest ones … if you personally feel connected to that work, that’s going to naturally attract more people.”

Runcie also called for accountability by all of the companies that have made statements and donations supporting Black Lives Matter since the protests erupted after the murder of George Floyd.

“One of the most powerful things that a lot of folks in the digital media publishing space, especially the Black folks, can do is hold the partners and folks they work with accountable,” Runcie said. “There are a lot of companies out there that are making statements and have donated money to causes and committed to do more to help Black creators, support Black entrepreneurship and so on. … That’s all great, but I think it’s important for any of us that end up being the benefactors of that to hold those companies accountable. … then a lot of this ends up getting more normalized.”

Lleraj Esuod – Rebel Writes

Under the pen name Lleraj Esuod, the brains behind Rebel Writes is railing against the status quo. A middle school English teacher for 13 years, Esuod knows the importance of the Black male perspective in society. Brilliant by all accounts, Esuod has been voted Teacher of the Year and received seven continuous invites to Harvard University from 2016 to 2020 as a recipient of the Sontag Prize In Urban Education.

Based in South Florida, Esuod has always had a passion for reading and writing. After graduating from Florida A&M University (FAMU) with a journalism degree in 2005, Esuod did a brief stint as a full-time print reporter.

Both smart and street, Esuod made waves with his writing, but eventually left his position as a reporter to have more creative freedom, After entering the education field, Esuod continued to freelance for several South Florida media outlets. After years of feeling like he was being censored and unable to express himself like he really wanted to, Esuod decided it was time to create his own media outlet.

Enter Rebel Writes. Esuod launched the opinionated site on Father’s Day this year. As a Black male, the date had significance and Esuod wrote a powerful piece on why he felt “a distinction should be made between a father and a daddy.” He’s also covered topics like the pummeling of confederate monuments and persistent slave mentality among Blacks.


“I started Rebel Writes because I don’t like my writing interests dictated and a lot of mainstream media outlets are too politically correct for me,” Esuod told Moguldom in an exclusive interview. “Not to say that my goal is to offend anyone, but many Black males’ perspectives are often deemed angry and maligned.”

True to his unapologetic and unfiltered personality, Esuod’s tagline is “It’s my pencil and I’ll write what I want to.” His logo holding a pencil while giving the world a proverbial finger is a plain statement that he’s unmoved by what anyone thinks of his opinions.

“It’s important for us to be in the digital media space because we don’t have to wait on mainstream publications’ approval to disseminate information relative to our communities,” Esuod said. “With the advent of technology, we can put out meaningful messages with the push of a button. However, at Rebel Writes our journalism isn’t rushed. We take our time and are as credible as any mainstream news source. But now, I don’t have to go to an editor to see if my pitch is approved. Like my tagine says, ‘It’s my pencil and I’ll write what I want to.’”

Insight from a pioneering Black male digital media entrepreneur

Nubai Ventures founder Jamarlin Martin is a pioneer in the digital media space. He entered the industry when he was still an undergrad at Morehouse College and has seen its ebbs and flows over the years.

After spending more than 20 years founding and scaling multiple successful digital media brands, Martin is not only glad to see other Black men actively taking up the mantle to be their own griots, but also cognizant of the challenges they face.

“The cultural and political environment is calling for stronger Black male voices in digital media. The difficult environment created by the duopoly of Google and Facebook, the redlining of Black content, which often gets ‘blacklisted’ and the generation of lower advertising rates makes it more challenging,” Martin said. “How mass incarceration played out in the prison system looks similar to Black men being ‘pushed back’ in journalism and media by bigger structural forces, arbitrary forces who don’t look at how policies and market shifts may re-engineer the Black population.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin

Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.

Martin encourages his peers to persist in raising their voices and telling Black stories.

“If we are to have a balanced media diet, the Black Man needs a strong voice outside of social media and on digital media platforms – particularly voices that are not compromised and can speak truth to power,” Martin said. “There is a systemic cultural and political attack on Black Men and fathers and it’s time to push back. The media is where a significant part of this battle is taking place.”