by Minister of Information JR Valrey, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau
The creation of BlackNewWorldMedia.com in August of 2020 has been a dream of mine ever since I jumped into journalism as a junior in high school. That year, I was picked to attend a summer journalism program for high school students that was housed at San Francisco State University.
Although I was distracted by the girls in the program, I was told by some of the instructors that I was a talented writer. After the program, I started to attend youth journalism meetings at the now defunct Pacific News Service offices in San Francisco weekly.
We would receive $50 a week in travel money, even if we weren’t published. I was drawn to journalism after writing my first story that caused controversy. I wrote a story about Black students attending white Catholic schools and the racism that they encounter, which was published by the San Francisco Examiner, which was at that time a daily powerhouse newspaper.
When I saw the effect that my article had on the teachers who called me into a meeting during class time, I saw the potential, in my hand, that journalism had to expose injustice. I was writing sporadically for Youth Outlook, a San Francisco based youth magazine, and also Pacific News Service, a news wire service that was the parent company of Youth Outlook.
At Youth Outlook and Pacific News Service, I met two of my most important mentors in the craft: Kevin Weston and Malcolm Marshall. Around 1999-2000, Kevin and Malcolm started writing for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. It was the only Black newspaper that I had ever seen, except for the Final Call.
I was inspired by them, because I loved how their writings were for a purpose, which was more complex than for just a check. I loved how they saw themselves as front line soldiers in the battle for Black people’s minds, especially for the youth.
Although, as Black men living in the U.S., we all contained within us a certain degree of anger at what is wantonly done to Black people by the powers that be – I, by far, contained the most outright rage in my writings and personality, to the extent where Kevin Weston used to call me “his alter-ego.”
I linked up with the San Francisco Bay View newspaper in 2000, and in no time I became a part of the weekly core team that created the newspaper. I ended up living in a room in the back of the newspaper for two or three years, where I worked on the paper constantly and got to know the personalities and Black neighborhoods of San Francisco. After that tenure, I became the associate editor of the San Francisco Bay View while I was maintaining a volunteer job as a radio reporter for Hard Knock Radio and Flashpoints on KPFA.
After extensively covering the police beating of Black woman reporter Nadra Foster inside of KPFA in 2008, the murder of Oscar Grant in 2009-10, the Haitian earthquake of 2010, the overthrow of Libya in 2011 and the California Prison Hunger Strikes of 2011 and 2013, KPFA and Pacifica Radio concocted a way to ban me, for life, from the station on the false charge that I was intimidating the management.
After being shot in East Oakland in August of 2012, I needed some mental rest, so I welcomed the ban and created my own radio studio in my apartment, where I continued my radio reports on my website and on Soundcloud.
In 2018, I had become homeless after a dispute with my landlord, so I gave up journalism. I was not inspired to write or record, and my recording equipment was in storage, which is where it is now.
I lived in my car for about a year in the parking lot of the African American Art and Culture Complex in the Fillmore neighborhood of San Francisco, where I held down a full-time job. The San Francisco Bay View was going through a number of editors at this time before settling on a recently released Texas prisoner named Malik Washington, who turned out to be a celebrated police informant.
I didn’t like the fact that, after working for the newspaper as an associate editor for 17 years, I was not considered for the position. So in August of 2020, when Malik arrived, I left the SF Bay View Newspaper to create BlackNewWorldMedia.com, which would reflect my personal politics.
At the end of 2021, according to the analytics, BlackNewWorldMedia.com had reached 3.2 million readers around the world. In the summer of 2021, I decided to partner with the Bay View and contribute some stories after the newspaper got rid of the journalistic fraud Malik Washington, and created the Oakland Bureau of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper to better cover what was happening in the East Bay, on which coverage was lacking.
Recently, I created the Ministry of Information Podcast, because information is presented and digested much differently than it was two decades ago. A visual and a social media presence will make or break a media organization in this current media landscape.
Although I was schooled in what is now called legacy media, it is on the journalists to adapt to today and present information in the way that the people can receive it, since our main function is to disperse knowledge rather than be married to a media platform. With traditional newspapers dying in droves, podcasts have taken the place of newspapers and magazines when it comes to people searching for a certain niche topic.
My podcast is scheduled to drop its first episode in the beginning of April. So, I am asking anybody who supports my journey as an independent journalist to subscribe and contribute to my Patreon account here and support my YouTube account here.
I have also authored a coffee-table book, along with the help of photographer Idris Hasan, called “2020 Covid Rebellions.” If you are interested in purchasing one of the limited edition hardback 50 copies that I have, please email me at email@example.com.
SF Bay View Oakland Bureau Chief JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv and blacknewworldmedia.com to see his work.