When it comes to data journalism, Sherrell Dorsey is the plug…literally!
The founder and CEO of the Black tech news and insights platform — is on a mission to not only cover Black innovators in the future of work policy, tech, venture capital, and more but to also give readers a deep dive into the numbers and how to use them to align a lifetime of possibilities.
Sherrell, a Seattle-native, has managed to grow the new media startup to thousands of subscribers, and several hundred paid members all while raising over $500,000 in equity-free capital.
As someone who has always been passionate about becoming a hybrid of both her creative side and her passion for the analytical scope of storytelling, it was a no brainer for Sherrell to use her passion to grow a platform that is truly about giving Black and brown folks what she believes had been missing from journalism.
Whether it’s answering questions like ‘what does the revenue look like,’ or comparing how business models look and what it does for the scope of the industry at large, Sherrell is well on her way to building the next Bloomberg or Wallstreet Journal but for the Black community.
She joins BAUCE magazine to share just why she believes our stories deserve to be told with the same rigor and reporting as our counterparts.
At what point did you realize that you had a love for data journalism?
Sherrell: I think that I sort of stumbled into the whole concept as I had been working in tech and also freelance writing on the side.
I ended up stumbling upon a data journalism conference and it was so foreign to me, this idea of data journalism. I didn’t realize that the two were married together or that it was an actual practice.
It felt like the perfect world for me.
And why would you say that data journalism is so important, especially for people who look like us?
Sherrell: Data journalism is kind of an oxymoron because most hard-hitting, investigative journalism does incorporate data. That’s how you’re combing through documents, information, research, and stats to really build a case for the story that you are telling and using the numbers as evidence.
I think that in reporting, particularly around Black and brown folks, when it’s in our possession we can kind of over-extend into more of inspirational and aspirational storytelling, which I think is great, and that we need that kind of journalism, but for me, when it came to Black and brown news being reported it didn’t feel in depth it didn’t feel analytical, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of critical thinking or actual reporting taking shape to really tell the larger story outside of someone being Black or Brown.
That makes perfect sense. Can you speak to how this led you to build your platform The Plug from the ground up?
Sherrell: What I was trying to accomplish early-on, folks didn’t understand, they enjoyed the articles that I wrote, but ultimately I wanted to build the Black Bloomberg or the black Wall Street Journal with a certain level of rigor and reporting.
I wanted length and depth and deep hard-hitting news and that’s really hard when you don’t have a team, you don’t have resources as you try to navigate and figure out how to publish high-quality content and grow at the same time.
As a Black woman founder, there’s this sense in the industry that there’s not enough room for us or we’re kind of relegated to taking the bottom of the barrel even despite having all of the necessary credentials.
It’s not for the faint of heart, but I truly believe that what we’ve built and continue to build with The Plug is worth it.
How would you say your platform helps others gain access to capital and the resources that they need?
Sherrell: We actually manage to do this by default from featuring specific startups in the publication each week to hosting the kind of conversations that we host, to the kind of reporting that we do.
We really do serve a business and C-Suite class audience as well as investors who are looking for deal flow and who are reading us to stay abreast of what’s happening across the ecosystem.
By default and impact of our reporting its had these almost unintended outcomes that have been very favorable to both Black investors and Black founders.
Any advice for BAUCE women on a similar path but don’t know where to start?
Sherrell: Throughout my journey from my academic career to my career now, I’ve tried and failed at a lot of things, had some interesting work experiences and ultimately as I began to find out who I am, I knew that impact and community were at the top of the list and I knew that I wanted to develop tools that would be useful in terms of not playing the same game for trying to solve major issues.
I would say to just get started and get to work. I just had to start and see what was going to stick.
Also, be open to learning, be open to asking for help and also be open to evolving over time and I truly think that it’s also important to continue to try different things.
When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to have the wherewithal to get up every day and say that although this is hard, it’s something that I want.