Journalist Natasha Alford connects media and community

Natasha Alford
Natasha Alford

Award-winning journalist Natasha Alford visited the Newhouse School the week of Sept. 20 as a guest of the Leaders in Communications speaker series, and to visit classes and meet with students.

Alford, who is the vice president of digital content and senior correspondent at theGrio and a CNN political analyst, wants to encourage students to use their power as journalists to give a voice to people who might otherwise not be heard.

“I like to encourage aspiring journalists to not think of themselves as aspiring journalists, but to see themselves as journalists already, to understand their power,” Alford says. “[Students] have absolute power to make a difference.” 

Alford spent the week hosting group discussions, serving as a guest lecturer in classes and hosting one-on-one sessions with students. Her advice to them? Get out of your comfort zone.

“Get as much work experience as you can while you’re in school, and you have the safety net of your professors and your classmates to experiment and try different things out,” she says. 

Natasha Alford taking a selfie with students
Alford takes a selfie with Newhouse students after a workshop Sept. 24. Photo by Courtney Glen White.

Telling stories in a virtual society could could create new possibilities for the digital world, Alford says. The pandemic forced media companies to consider new strategies to bring in revenue, turning more toward subscription-based services. Alford says she’s already seen these changes take root in media, especially in minority-run media startups like theGrio.

“I think there’s the traditional ad model that journalism has always relied on and the [pool of available ad dollars] gets smaller and smaller,” Alford says. “If you work in ethnic media… our pool is even smaller, and advertising agencies do not reflect the principle of equity when they think about how they allot ad dollars for Black media versus mainstream media.” 

Alford, who is a native of Syracuse, plans to return to the city this fall to teach local community members how to work with the media.

“I felt that there was a need to work with community organizations, nonprofits, activists and everyday people to educate them about the role of the press and how they can utilize the press to advance and advocate for their own issues,” Alford says. “Oftentimes, the relationship with the media, particularly in inner city communities, is really weighed down by mistrust.” 

When she is back home in Brooklyn, however, Alford has plans beyond her roles at theGrio and CNN. 

“I plan to write books, deliver lectures and continue to do workshops for students and aspiring journalists,” Alford says. She says she wants to produce more documentaries like “Afro-Latinx Revolution: Puerto Rico,” which she produced in 2020. “I just want to do even deeper storytelling, even richer storytelling in the future.”

Benjamin Schiller is a sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.