Georgia Fort, the independent multimedia journalist and entrepreneur from St. Paul, doesn’t take no for answer.
When she couldn’t land a television job in the Twin Cities that paid her commensurate with her experience – she had been a weekend anchor in Columbus, Georgia, and morning co-anchor in Duluth, landing two Emmy Awards nominations – she began producing her own video content, posted to her professional website and Facebook page.
Fort, who is biracial, focuses her journalism on marginalized and underserved groups, mainly people of color. Her Facebook page attracted 105,000 followers.
In 2021 she joined the Racial Reckoning: The Arc of Justice project, launched by the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations (Ampers) in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to cover the Derek Chauvin trial and related issues. Fort’s reports aired on 18 community radio stations throughout the state, and she co-produced a radio documentary, “George Floyd: One Year Later.” She also founded BLCK Press Center for Broadcast Journalism (BPCBJ), a nonprofit staffed by seven up-and-coming journalists of color who pitch and produce stories from communities often overlooked by white-leaning mainstream outlets.
So what’s next for Fort? A weekly half-hour television show. “Here’s The Truth with Georgia Fort” premiers March 11 on The CW Twin Cities, airing Saturdays at 11 a.m.
“A TV show is something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s a natural next step,” Fort said in a conference room at The Coven, a co-working space for women in St. Paul where she rents a tiny office in the basement. “As an independent journalist who has prioritized visual storytelling, having a background in TV, it just made sense to take (my storytelling) to TV. Now there are advertising and sponsorship opportunities that can not only sustain myself but also support me in building out a team and creating job opportunities for other media makers.”
Independent journalism is a calling, but it’s not lucrative or easy. Fort, a mother of three, spends almost as much time applying for grants and soliciting funding for her projects as she does doing the actual work. (She’s married to retired boxer Cerresso Fort, who owns SIR Boxing Club on St. Paul’s East Side, not far from their home. They met as Harding High School students.)
BLCK Press Center for Broadcast Journalism secured a grant from the Minneapolis Foundation and financial support from U.S. Bank, enough to pay its young journalists. Fort continues to fundraise for the TV project under BLCK Press LLC, a for-profit entity separate from the nonprofit BLCK Press Center for Broadcast Journalism. Her GoFundMe page lists more than $42,000 in donations towards a goal of $150,000.
“There is a business side to the work that I do,” Fort said. “I think people thought it was really cute when I first started posting all these videos to Facebook. And after I kept posting all these videos to Facebook, people started asking, how do you make money? Well, become a subscriber, buy the photo book; contribute.
“But when you think about the long-term sustainability of this work, at its highest peak I’ve had between 250 to 300 monthly supporters. In terms of being a mother of three, am I really able to do this work full time? I had to strategize on a broader vision of how to sustain this work. When I’m talking to corporations, it’s hard to sell a three- to five-minute video on Facebook. But there’s already an infrastructure to advertise on a TV show or advertise on a website. So I had to start to package my work in a way that positions me for those opportunities.”
Raised by a single mother who was a domestic abuse survivor, Fort’s work emphasizes the humanity of people involved in everyday struggles. She loves telling positive, uplifting stories about BIPOC people doing great things in their communities – stories mainstream outlets often miss because they don’t know where or how to find them. Fort often speaks about “changing the narrative,” among them the false notion that most people of color are criminals, perpetuated by too many crime stories and mug shots.
Marianne Combs, a respected former Minnesota Public Radio arts reporter, met Fort when they worked at Racial Reckoning. When that project ended, Fort hired Combs, who is white, as news director of BLCK Press Center for Broadcast Journalism. Together they manage a team of BIPOC journalists, almost all women, some products of the ThreeSixty Journalism program for high school students at the University of St. Thomas (UST). Fort is a 2010 UST grad.
“She’s an amazing businesswoman,” Combs said of Fort. “I’m constantly blown away by her business acumen. She’s incredibly smart and visionary. I learned so much working with her. She’s brilliant when it comes to business and journalism. And she has a really strong set of values. That’s why I think we hit it off so well, because our values are in alignment around the kind of work we want to do, and the change we want to see.
“What I love about Georgia is, she’s always got a much bigger vision than I do. I’m always like, let’s go for this little thing, and she’s like, why aren’t we going for the big thing? She really wants to create something excellent and meaningful, and have a legacy. With the BLCK Press Center for Broadcast Journalism, she’s not just thinking about what she’s doing this week. She’s thinking about, how do we change the media ecosystem in the long run, and how do we invest in those changes now?”
Fort emphasizes these young journalists aren’t interns who need their hands held. They’re savvy in their own right, bringing story ideas to pitch meetings instead of waiting for assignments from editors.
“Our reporters are all amazing and very talented,” Fort said. “I don’t want to make it seem like I’m teaching them. They already know. They have the gut instincts of what stories are important.”
Jasmine McBride, 23, like Fort a St. Paul product, is a single mom with an arts background who never spend a day in college but intuitively finds and tells terrific stories. (This defies the narrative that you need a college degree to work in journalism – something that, frankly, has never been true.) Now the host of BLCK Press’ Culture Cast, last July McBride produced a piece about Daddy Doulas, Black men being present and assisting in the birth of their children. This counters the narrative of Black men as absentee fathers.
“I didn’t want that narrative (of Black men not being present for their children) living on in the heads of others,” McBride said. “I wanted to explore this concept of, there’s more.”
The story had some personal significance to McBride as well. The father of her baby, while not a doula (someone who guides the birthing process), was there when she gave birth to their daughter.
“BLCK Press really prides itself on centering the passions of the reporters,” McBride said. “I think you create more genuine stories of depth when you allow people to cover stories they’re personally drawn to.”
While Fort’s TV show is separate from the BPCBJ, you can expect many of the same kinds of stories in both places.
“All BIPOC communities have excellence and positive things, too,” Fort said. “We have those human interest stories for the white community, and we always have. But whether it’s because you don’t have a Black reporter or an Asian reporter or whatever, we’re not prioritizing those stories for communities of color the same way we have historically have for white communities.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Fort’s two separate projects, the for-profit BLCK Press LCC and nonprofit BLCK Press Center for Broadcast Journalism.