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The New Norm

EXPERIENCING A PANDEMIC: COVID-19 Changed the way “Normal” is Defined is a look at COVID-19 from various voices — some heard often, as well as those that are muted; especially in the African American Community. What we have attempted to do is to amplify voices and let those voices be authentically presented without editing or interpretation.

Norma Adams-Wade
Norma Adams-Wade

This project is funded partially from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to support original and innovative coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus vaccine, and how these topics intersect into the nation’s K-12 education system.

It is our intent that through articles, podcasts, social media and programs on cable television, for starters; we have provided information that will help prepare for future pandemics because we at I Messenger Media believe this won’t be the last one!


When cases of COVID -19 first made headlines, as with most health crises, there were many false narratives and a ‘this too shall pass mentality’ kept many from taking reports serioiusly. Then COVID-19 or Coronavirus started dominating headlines as the death toll continued to rise around the world.


As we tackled the subject of COVID-19 and our K-12 education system, we wanted to present several perspectives, so in addition to stories from dedicated professional journalists like National Association of Black Journalists founder Norma Adams-Wade (who also did a podcast), Sylvia Dunnavant, and our co-horts at the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Black News Link, The Dallas Morning News, NABJ and SPJ; we also have educators, a school nurse and counselor, and healthcare professionals weighing in. We talked with elected officials, the clergy, parents of children in K-12, and students in high school and college; who also shared their experiences and insight. There’s also input from a makeup artist because whether it is the prom, graduation, or a sporting event; makeup is a hot commodity for not only high school, but junior high.

For this project, we also included up-to-date information on the Coronavirus, along with resources like the Black Star Network, as we continue to deal with this pandemic.

We have also witnessed that many have gone back to life as they knew it before we first began hearing about this “coronavirus.” For some, the past two years could be summed up by legendary rapper, Biggie, who said in his chart topping song, Juicy Fruit, “It was all a dream!”


No one imagined that we would be dealing with the virus more than two years later. But here we are continuing to have conversations about variants and “upticks” or occurrences on other continents, as well as increased concerns in the U.S.

Casey Thomas
Casey Thomas
Dallas City Councilman

In Dallas, TX there were several task forces set up to deal with disseminating information, especially to historically under-served communities. Dallas City Councilman Casey Thomas chaired meetings with medical experts, community/business leaders, media and staff, to discuss the latest data and how best to reach and serve those critical areas.


The Black COVID Task Force addressed community concerns and Councilman Thomas was quick to note disparities and call for immediate action, along with other elected officials.

Also Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and other officials from medical institutions and County Health and Human Services gave frequent updates and shared critical information, along with a number of other elected officials and medical experts, so that we could rely on science!

At one time, at least in most parts of this country, masks became a required piece of your wardrobe. Today, however; the masks are definitely the exception, so much that there are reports of people being harassed about wearing masks.

Can enough be said about the washing of hands? After all, it appears that something that was a requirement in many households, is not the case globally. This is evident in most restaurant restrooms where there are signs posted telling employees to wash their hands before returning to work.

To think that this is necessary in a civilized society is mind-boggling but clearly there’s a breech in basic etiquette when we found ourselves giving tutorials on how to wash your hands; well these are the times that we live in!



I Messenger Media was seriously impacted by COVID-19. We rely primarily on small businesses and at times, corporate America to purchase advertising and churches, schools, community centers and small businesses for distribution.

Additionally, prior to the pandemic we prided ourselves on going where our people are so we attended at least five weekly community events, putting our papers in the hands of consumers. With COVID-19, most distribution points closed down or traffic came to almost a complete halt. Some businesses closed down or cancelled their advertising contracts and organizations were no longer having banquet, expos, concerts, etc.

Much to our disappointment we were faced with paying more. But we stayed focused and kept our eyes on the prize. While some took an extended “Coroncation,” we stayed on the job and added a daily newsletter that boasts a 58% open rate. Our “Can’t Stop, Wont Stop” mentality energized the team.


We reached out to businesses, especially restaurants and we offered them ads in our publications if they would give each customer a copy of our papers with their to -go orders..

It was a big hit. Folks would joke and say things, like: “I am going to Hall’s Chicken to get my two piece and a paper!” Or, “Nothing like going to Black Jack Pizza and getting a pizza and a paper.”


The campaign went over so well that we had business owners contacting us to get involved.

In addition to running the ads, we featured the businesses in our publications, and we ran their ads on our websites, social media platforms, in our daily enewsletter and on a daily podcast where we provided critical information for our audiences.

We believe in under-promising and over-delivering. We felt as though it was important to stay focused on continuing to provide news and information. We wanted our readers to know that we are here for them during tough times and we will be with them for all times.

It has been a challenge for us but instead of furloughing or down-sizing, we pivoted and worked to keep everyone paid, clothed, housed and fed. We applied for grants and we helped one another with everything from babysitting to delivering food.

No, we didn’t receive huge checks from a flawed system that has folks going to jail for their fraudulent claims or multi-million/billion dollar companies receiving million dollar stimulus checks. Instead we relied on limited resources and support from those who value the Black Press and journalistic excellence.

Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith is the publisher of Texas Metro News, Garland Journal and I Messenger. An award-winning journalist, in addition to being inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame, she was awarded Distinguished Alumni honors by the Florida A&M University School of Journalism and Graphic Communication and Editor & Pub-

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