It’s All About Perspective

Batala McFarlane, 2021
Batala McFarlane (ThreeSixty Journalism/Evan Frost)

For 47 years, Insight News has been a trailblazer for diverse media groups. Founded in 1974, the Black-owned news group has been providing its community with stories they can relate to. These are stories Batala McFarlane, the publisher of Insight News, thinks are extremely important.  

McFarlane grew up with news all around her. As the daughter of Al McFarlane, Insight’s founder, she often found herself at the office on 18th and Bryant Avenue North in Minneapolis. McFarlane would eventually take on a pivotal role at the family business, working as a publisher, a producer and sometimes even “cleaning behind the toilet.” 

“When you or your family owns a business, you do whatever it takes to keep the business operating,” McFarlane said.  

As well as working hard to keep her family business afloat, McFarlane makes sure she can put out important stories for her community. 

“There’s (an) opportunity for us to tell our own stories,” she said. “Because if you allow other people to tell your story, they’ll create the narrative for you.” 

The free newspaper offers positive and uplifting stories – a stark contrast to how McFarlane feels her community is portrayed by the mainstream media.    

“People who are not familiar with the Northside and the South Side and the East Side may just walk away thinking it’s just a place you don’t want to go,” she said. “It’s a place that’s defined by a deficit, it’s a place of poverty, of death, of illness.” 

She strongly disagrees with this perception. Rather, McFarlane wants to share real-life success stories because, according to her, “when you see yourself in that light, then you’re inclined to sit a little straighter and understand that you come from people who are contributing to community.” 

But sometimes it is hard to highlight these stories with so much negative news overshadowing them. 

The death of George Floyd changed a lot for Insight News. 

“What has changed is that people believe us now,” McFarlane said. “And what I mean by that is that those of us in these spaces have been telling the stories of the movement, of the activists, of the disparities forever.” 

Instead of dwelling on such a dark time for her community, McFarlane says Insight News keeps a forward mindsight. 

It ties back to the original vision of Insight News: positive narratives can be shared to inspire those in a misrepresented community. Its goal is to find the solution and not to focus on the problem. 

McFarlane firmly believes it’s all about perspective and your outlook on these problems.  

“I think that’s the way we should look at it. It’s more than a moment, and what we do with this energy that we’re in – this desire to acknowledge, to listen, to collaborate, to work together to build a greater society.” 

But how can this be done? How do we channel that energy? She believes the way we can do this is to share our stories.  

“I think that now’s the time, right?” she said. “Because, again, too often we’ve been told that our stories didn’t matter. But they do, they really, really do.”

These reports were created by ThreeSixty Journalism’s summer 2021 News Reporter Academy high school students in partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center