As part of a yearlong editorial sponsorship with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), the NBCUniversal News Group created content aimed at opening up conversations about racial equity and to advance racial healing. Utilizing multiple platforms and News Group talent, coupled with WKKF’s partnerships with local community organizations promoting equity, NBCUniversal amplified stories of racial injustice and covered what it takes for communities dealing with the history of racial trauma to heal. The sponsorship, which culminated in the observance of the National Day of Racial Healing through two hour-long town hall specials on MSNBC and on Telemundo, sought to bring people together through these stories and inspire discussion and collective action towards a more equitable world.
On January 17th, 2023, the NBCUniversal News Group produced two town halls sponsored by WKKF to mark the Seventh National Day of Racial Healing at Studio BE in New Orleans, Louisiana. The annual observance of the National Day of Racial Healing was created with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) community partners. TRHT was established in 2017 to promote racial healing as a path toward creating a space for everyone to thrive in.
NBCUniversal News Group believes in a responsibility to amplify stories that can help people solve issues within their communities. The town halls were the embodiment of these goals. Through the events, the NBCUniversal News Group intended to spotlight communities struggling with the effects of racism, showcase changemakers helping them heal, highlight resources and build bridges across communities.
Utilizing both English- and Spanish-language media platforms within the NBCUniversal News Group portfolio, this sponsorship had the unique opportunity to bring together diverse audiences, speakers and experts to tackle hard conversations centered around the impacts of racism and the path to healing. Because the effects of racism are felt across diverse communities, this sponsorship sought to highlight communities from different backgrounds fighting to make a difference on issues of language discrimination, racist policies, hate speech and racially-motivated violence. Produced in English on MSNBC and in Spanish on Telemundo, it was important to have inclusive conversations that explored how these issues and solutions affect both English- and Spanish-speaking communities.
The sponsorship by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was essential to this project. Not only did the foundation’s creation of the National Day of Racial Healing inspire the initial production idea, but WKKF’s expertise and experience around conversations about race were essential in the execution of these town halls. Because of NBCUniversal News Group’s diverse portfolio and expansive reach, the editorial teams were able to amplify the messaging of racial healing and equity and inform viewers on a large scale. Also unique to this editorial sponsorship was a cast of well-known News Group talent like Joy Reid, Chris Hayes, Trymaine Lee, Lori Montenegro and Johana Suárez who lent their voices as hosts during these town hall specials. The News Group’s resources allowed for large-scale promotion of the town halls, spreading the word about racial healing, gathering audiences for the specials and increasing viewership.
The National Day of Racial Healing Town Halls were immersive productions, including live studio audiences and Q&A opportunities with panelists. This gave attendees a sense of connection to the discussions, but presented some challenges. The MSNBC and Telemundo specials were produced and shot within the same day. Telemundo’s special was taped, while the MSNBC special aired live. Making sure any live broadcast runs smoothly presents challenges, but filming the two in the same space on the same day was a unique experience for all involved. Production staff worked around a tight schedule to ensure everything ran on time. Studio BE, a cultural, artistic, and educational landmark in New Orleans, Louisiana, was handpicked by MSNBC and Telemundo’s editorial staff because it displayed artwork directly related to the topic of racial healing. The crew had a tight turnaround to reset the space between the specials, while spotlighting different areas and artwork installations in the space.
Additionally, hosting two large live audiences presented challenges for the team. With a combined number of more than 300 in-person audience members across the two town halls, production staff had to ensure audiences for both shows were checked in and seated in a timely manner while ensuring the safety of talent, panelists and crew. Through all of the technical and logistical challenges of the production of these town halls, it was essential to keep the main goal top of mind – to inform viewers and amplify often difficult and uncomfortable conversations to a large, diverse audience.
The National Day of Healing town halls on MSNBC and Telemundo were able to accomplish the goals of highlighting racial healing and how racial equity can be achieved. They also sparked deeper conversations about how racial issues permeate through all communities. The MSNBC and Telemundo town halls garnered more than 1.3 million viewers across broadcast, cable and digital. The town halls tackled topics like how we navigate the path to healing, the rise in hate speech, recognizing the harm racism has caused, and more. The town halls also included discussions on truth and reconciliation and brought together unique perspectives from several notable panelists, including a member of the Little Rock Nine, a former mayor of New Orleans, and many activists from different communities.
Promotions for the town halls included nearly 30 broadcast spots across the networks, more than 40 social media posts, and numerous local and national articles from News Group platforms and external publications. Some of these external media outlets included USA Today, Essence, The Guardian and more, covering the town halls and their overall impact.