2023 uncovered many cultural trends: the K-Wave of Korean food bringing mochi-battered hot dogs into mainstream culture. Latino “no sabo kids” refusing to feel shame for not speaking Spanish. Decades-old lyrics from Tupac finding new fans with Gen Z listeners. And cinephiles examining how queer female characters have long been villainized in film.
These are just a few of the stories that resonated with NBC News digital readers last year — stories that went beyond the well-trodden topics of hate and crime in underserved communities, to highlight what these communities were actually talking about.
“I’m really proud that we punch above our weight,” said NBC Asian America editorial director Jessica Prois.
Entering 2024, Prois and the editors of NBC’s other identity verticals — BLK, Latino and Out — still want to tap into these cultural conversations. While they also plan to cover dominant news stories like the presidential election, they hope to include uplifting stories when they can.
Below, the editors of NBC’s identity verticals discuss what they plan to cover and what their audiences want and need to know in 2024.
An eye on state elections
Election season is ready to ramp up. Editors at BLK, Latino, Asian America and Out said their election coverage will dive deeper into where candidates stand on issues — and not just in the presidential race, but in local elections, as well.
They want to highlight representation on the ballot and see if candidates reflect the demographics and values of the population they strive to represent. Editors also emphasized the importance of journalists talking to voters of all ages, statuses and neighborhoods to get a nuanced picture of what interests and concerns communities have, as no one identity is a monolith.
At NBC Latino, for example, the team is particularly interested in covering how socioeconomics and geography play into how Latinos vote. “All of us in the diversity verticals, we are giving national stories our own imprint,” said NBC Latino managing editor Sandra Lilley.
Communities also have unique election concerns. For example, NBC Asian America will be looking out for whether there are translation services for Asian Americans at polling stations and whether first and family names are switched on ballots.
“I am very interested in diving deep into the nuances of the Black electorate,” said NBC BLK editorial director Michelle Garcia. “Moderate candidates who could take Trump’s place might be more appealing to Black voters who are kind of disenchanted with the Biden administration.”
Teams will also continue to cover the happenings in state legislatures, such as a task force that recommended that the California State Assembly determine reparation amounts for eligible Black residents who were affected by slavery, and “don’t say gay” laws in Florida that affect the everyday lives of LGBTQ people.
During a time of numerous anti-LGBTQ bills, “we have a very committed team who’s making sure that we’re bringing our readers factual information, important information in an era of rampant misinformation,” Out editorial director Brooke Sopelsa said.
Sopelsa also wants to celebrate wins and political milestones, like the 50th anniversary of the first known openly gay elected official, Kathy Kozachenko, who was elected to the Ann Arbor (Michigan) City Council in 1974.
“We look for any opportunity to cover stories centered on queer excellence — LGBTQ people doing wonderful things,” she said.
Representation beyond typical narratives
Representation in Hollywood has been a narrative the media has followed for years — often noting the lack thereof rather than any improvements made.
But recently, films with Black protagonists — particularly, a remake of “The Color Purple” and the documentary “American Symphony”— have been receiving awards buzz. What’s particularly noteworthy is that these stories are layered and nuanced “and not just depressing Black stories about slavery,” Garcia said.
Prois and Sopelsa say there is also a lot of exciting Asian American and LGBTQ representation receiving similar hype. “Past Lives,” “Beef” and “Rustin” are also solid contenders for awards recognition.
The summer Olympics in Paris is also a chance to note representation in elite athleticism — but, like most news, what’s most noteworthy happens in real time. Garcia said her team taps into existing online discussions and finds a kernel where they can explore something bigger and more insightful about the moment. One thing they are keeping an eye on: a possible comeback for gymnast Gabby Douglas.
Cultural highlights outside the typical news cycle
One positive to come out of the recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation and rhetoric is a “renaissance of gay literature,” Out has reported. The past year has seen a rise in book sales featuring queer characters and books written by queer authors. Sopelsa said she’s even considering launching an NBC Out book club to highlight what’s on the market in the face of anti-LGBTQ book bans.
NBC Latino wants to continue to cover stories beyond immigration and politics, including how affordable education is impacting Latino families, like the increase in college graduation rates among Latina women. Lilley’s team will also continue to explore what it means to be Latino, spotlighting the nuances of identity in this expanding community.
At NBC Asian America, Prois’ team wants to continue to follow trends that are making their way to mainstream culture, like what it means that kimbap is being sold at Trader Joe’s, or what’s the latest K-pop drama that teens are talking about on TikTok. The team is chronically online, “in a good way,” she said, as many Asian Americans often get their news on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook because they don’t see themselves in mainstream media.
Garcia agrees with examining what’s online, encouraging her team to elevate people’s personal stories from social media to highlight larger narratives in Black communities, like how a video of a kid being harassed by school security might uncover a story about the school-to-prison pipeline. “These forums really are our public square,” she said.