Twenty-somethings Tiffany Walden ’11, ’12 MS, a breaking news reporter, and Morgan Elise Johnson ’11, a filmmaker, knew if they wanted to see media coverage that did their Chicago-area communities justice, they would have to do it themselves. So in February 2017 they partnered with web developer David Elutilo to co-found the Triibe. Through features, opinion pieces and documentaries, the digital news platform has helped Black Chicago reclaim ownership of its stories through reporting that humanizes and adds depth to mainstream, traditional media coverage of the city. “It seems like Chicago is the poster child for really everything wrong with Black America,” Walden says, “and we found the mainstream media coverage to be a very shallow and untrue narrative that didn’t reflect the Chicago that we know.”
Rather than reduce Black Chicago to accounts of reported violence, the Triibe discusses what people in these neighborhoods are doing to invest in and improve their communities. Walden says that editors at her past jobs — where she was often the only African American person in the newsroom — didn’t understand the importance of telling a story through a Black lens. Now Walden and Johnson have complete control over what they cover and how they write about it. Headquartered in the Real Chi, Free Spirit Media’s learning newsroom in Homan Square, the Triibe recently received a grant from the Field Foundation to ramp up community engagement and publishing frequency.
Last summer the Triibe published its Triibe Guide 2019, a print booklet of event listings and recommendations for Black-owned businesses that expanded the publication’s reach beyond the digital-only millennial audience. “We’re dispelling the view of Black Chicago as apathetic,” Walden says. “We have to give people the agency to tell their stories.”