Journalism grads start news agency for African-Nova Scotians

Recent King's College journalism grads Sandra Hannebohm and Tundè Balogun have started an independent news agency in Halifax to investigate stories that focus on issues important to the African-Nova Scotian community.

"The community's telling us they want it to last'

Tundè Balogun and Sandra Hannebohm have started Objective News Agency, an independent media business in Halifax to investigate stories relating to the African-Nova Scotian community. (Robert Short/CBC)

Two recent University of King's College journalism graduates have started an independent news agency that will investigate stories focusing on issues that affect the African-Nova Scotian community.

Sandra Hannebohm and Tundè Balogun are the founders of The Objective News Agency.

The Clarion was started by civil rights activist Carrie Best. (Nova Scotia Archives)

Their business is run out of the living room of Balogun's Gottingen Street apartment in north-end Halifax.

He edits on a donated desktop computer. Hannebohm sits across the room in a comfortable cushioned chair doing news budgets and writing scripts on a laptop computer.

With donations from family and friends, the pair rents camera equipment as needed for video shoots.

Sharing untold stories

Hannebohm and Balogun say their new mini video documentaries, available only online, will fill in where coverage is lacking in traditional media.

"There's a need for this," Balogun said. "The community's telling us they want it to last. The community is saying we need you to investigate these issues that are important to us.

Carrie Best was the first black woman in Nova Scotia to start a newspaper. (CBC)

Hannebohm and Balogun will premiere a four-part documentary at Halifax Central Library in February.

 "So for the four parts of that first series we [are] spanning a whole range — from the experience in education to the experience with employment, the experience with justice and the experience with government, as well," Hannebohm said.

Last month, they presented a trailer for an investigative piece they produced on the high number of black students enrolled in individual program plans in Nova Scotia public classrooms.

The Black Express newspaper was started in 1978 by railroad porter Charles Husbands in Halifax. It was distributed across Canada. (Sherri Borden Colley/CBC)

"So when you look at the IPPs, you see how many of our children are on IPPs, you see the simple fact that a lot of them don't end up graduating," Balogun said. "The ones that do graduate are graduating at extremely lower grade rates than what they should be."

Black media in Nova Scotia

Claudine Bonner, an associate professor in women's and gender studies and sociology at Acadia University in Wolfville, is doing research on the black press in Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries, focusing on themes of resistance and activism.

Sandra Hannebohm and Tundè Balogun are founders of the Objective News Agency, located in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

The Atlantic Advocate was Nova Scotia's first black newspaper. First published in 1915, it covered a wide range of topics on black life in the province and early on was dedicated to efforts around the First World War.

In 1929, the Nova Scotia Gleaner was first published in Sydney and edited by lawyer F.A. Hamilton. It also provided a platform for activism in the province.

The Provincial Monitor, started by Rev. Darryl Gray in the early 1990s, was one of several black-owned newspapers in Nova Scotia. (Sherri Borden Colley/CBC)

"One of the things that the black press manages to do is allow us some insight into the everyday lives of African-Nova Scotians," Bonner said. "African-Nova Scotians, if you look at the mainstream [press], especially historically, are absent from the everyday narrative.

"It's an outlet for people to learn about their own history, their own contributions to, at the time, a growing nation. It provides insight into community building."

Claudine Bonner teaches at Acadia University. (Submitted by Claudine Bonner)

Even today, Bonner said, an independent black press serves a purpose.

"I think it would still allow for aspects of black life that are still invisible to be explored, to be shared," she said. "So, I think there is a place for it."

Many other black newspapers in Canada have come and gone over the years.

"They tend to disappear, they're not very long-lived," Bonner said. "And I think one of the reasons this is true is that there isn't enough support for them — support whether financial or otherwise. Because the only people who would advertise in these presses, for example, are people who recognize the ability to gain patrons from within the black community."

A glimpse at some former black-owned newspapers in Nova Scotia

1915 - The Atlantic Advocate was Nova Scotia's first black newspaper.  

1929 - The Nova Scotia Gleaner was a monthly paper published in Sydney and edited by lawyer F.A. Hamilton.

1946 - The Clarion was started by Carrie Best in New Glasgow.  The paper advocated for racial equality across the province. It went national in August 1949 and was re-issued as The Negro Citizen.

Mid-1960s – Black Horizons was published by the Black United Front advocacy group.

1978 - The Black Express News was published monthly by a black railroad porter Charles Husbands in Halifax. It was distributed across Canada.

Mid-1980s - The Jet Journal, which had a circulation of about 5,000, was started by black studies instructor, Percy Paris.

Late 1980s – The Rap, published by the Black United Front

1990s – The Provincial Monitor, a 12-page monthly tabloid written and edited by blacks for blacks, was started by Rev. Darryl Gray.

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley

Reporter

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts. To get in touch with Sherri email sherri.borden.colley@cbc.ca