After 11 Years, A Top HBCU Publication is Expanding its Scope

For 11 years, Jarrett Carter Sr. has been synonymous with historically Black colleges and universities. As founding editor of the HBCU Digest, he has produced nonstop coverage of some of the nation’s most storied higher education institutions.

On September 1, that will change. 

HBCU Digest will become part of Education News Flash, a brand new publication Carter is launching that will expand its scope of coverage to include the rest of higher education.

“I get to put HBCUs on par with other institutions,” Carter told The Plug about his new venture. “You won’t have to go to one place and say ‘Oh there’s a publication for black folks and black schools, and then we need to go to this one for white folks and white schools.’”

Before starting HBCU Digest, Carter was no stranger to HBCUs. He grew up just miles from Howard University, his mother went to Virginia State University and other family members attended Hampton University and Norfolk State University. But when it came time to choose a school, he decided to go to Morgan State University.

“I thought attending college in Baltimore I could be a world away, but still be down the road from my parents,” he said.

Since graduating in 2003, he has stayed in Baltimore. For a few years he worked in the communications department back at his alma mater, helping handle crises like the one involving a cannibalistic student. 

But by 2010, the itch to go back to reporting was too strong. Carter then started the HBCU Digest at the beginning of that year, his approach to covering HBCUs one that is different from the typical coverage the schools receive.

“Most people believe if you’re hearing about HBCUs, you’re gonna hear about a couple of things: marching band, football or some kind of controversy,” Carter said. His focus instead is on policy, executive administration, workforce development and industrial impact, which he said is revelatory for a lot of his audience.

“They are saying ‘Wow we didn’t think about HBCUs that way.’”

Over the past 11 years, Carter has grown his audience to around 160,000 followers across multiple platforms and the Digest has been read by someone in almost every country on Earth. The audience ranges from HBCU presidents and board members to federal and state legislators.

HBCU Digest doesn’t just live online. Carter also has a show, Digest After Dark, on a SiriusXM channel dedicated to HBCUs.

Carter’s reporting on HBCUs has been varied and thoughtful. He has gotten exclusive interviews with the presidents of Morehouse and Spelman, spent years covering the troubles at South Carolina State University that recently led to the firing of the school’s president and written about everything from then-President Obama’s town hall at North Carolina A&T to how HBCUs can capitalize on Beyonce’s “Homecoming” performance.

But Carter feels it is now time for a change. Though his revenue has continued to grow, he explained the audience enthusiasm isn’t the same.

“It’s not spiking like it used to. It’s not the same seismic thing when the Digest comes out with some really breaking news,” Carter said.

As he prepares to launch the new Education News Flash publication, it will have the same subscription model as the HBCU Digest, which offers some posts to paid subscribers only. But it will also build in some corporate sponsorship opportunities to the newsletter, podcast and social media videos. Carter hopes to court everything from educational tech companies to food service vendors — businesses that serve higher education as an industry.

He hopes that if his coverage of HBCUs is included alongside stories of other minority-serving institutions and predominately white schools, it will attract a new swath of readers.

“It’ll be refreshing to see that on a Tuesday, I can write an editorial about Purdue University and two hours later, you will see an article just as well sourced and just as thoughtful about Prairie View A&M University,” Carter said.

Mirtha Donastorg

Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.