Sisters Call Buying Their Hometown's Historic Newspaper A 'Full-Circle Moment'

Sisters Call Buying Their Hometown's Historic Newspaper A 'Full-Circle Moment'

What’s better than one sister saving their local news publication? Two. Dontaira Terrell and her sister Zakkiyyah Terrell White teamed up to purchase the historic Youngstown, Ohio newspaper, Buckeye Review, to continue its legacy as one of the leading Black-owned publications in the country since it was founded in 1937.

Dontaira has an extensive background in journalism contributing to various publications like HuffPost, BET, and xoNecole. Now serving as the co-publisher, co-owner, and editor-in-chief of herhometown’s publication, Dontaira is living her dream job, and coincidently, it’s at the same newspaper she had her first byline published at just nine years old. Dontaira opens up to xoNecole about her new role, the family business, and the future of media.

“Well, it's actually a full-circle moment because I told you my sister actually used to intern for the previous owners when she was in high school. So they have been family friends of ours for a very long time," Dontaira says. “It was just time for them to pass the torch and they entrusted us to move forward in terms of preserving the legacy and carrying forward the legacy. So it all moved rather quickly. Once they were aware that we would be interested in just carrying out their vision and carrying out what they've accomplished and achieved these last 30 years.”

Zakkiyyah Terrell White (L) and Dontaira Terrell (R)

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While Dontaira is a well-respected journalist, Zakkiyyah is an esteemed attorney, and their backgrounds combined make them the perfect duo to take on such an exciting yet massive opportunity to relaunch the publication. Zakkiyyah uses her skills to offload some of the business tasks, which include trademarks and reviewing contracts. Dontaira focuses on creative decisions like story ideas that appeal to the older generations who have been readers of the newspaper for decades as well as introducing fresh perspectives that the younger generation will appreciate. They are also challenging the narrative that newspapers are a dying breed.

“Yes, so I think one of the things, just in terms of overcoming those challenges, we definitely want to get the younger generation, like Gen Z, involved because I feel like Gen Z are heavily influenced by social media and by the digital landscape,” she explains. “So I feel like if we bring them into the fold and create those intergenerational conversations, we can definitely engage readers. We can also increase readership. We can also do a lot of various things on the social media aspect, from digitizing the magazine because we plan on doing a quarterly magazine as well. So that's why I said digitize the magazine, as well as the newspapers."

One of her goals as editor-in-chief is to have intergenerational conversations that will reach a broader audience in the Black community. She continues, “I felt like just being engaged with the audience and also just bringing them in for them to know that their voices are being heard and we want to hear from them. And I think also not neglecting our immediate target base, which is the older generational baby boomers, if you will.

"So that's why I feel like just creating that intergenerational approach will definitely help us in terms of overcoming those challenges. Getting people excited, again, about picking up a newspaper, about going to various websites reading a variety of articles, although with the newspaper publication, it's not CNN, and we're not trying to be CNN. We are definitely trying to bridge that gap, if you will.”

The Revamp

Dontaira shares some of the exciting things readers of the Buckeye Review can look forward to with the revamp.

Dontaira Terrell

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Expanding Its Digital Footprint

One of their focuses is to make the publication available outside of Ohio and "bring in more of the lifestyle, entertainment pieces into the forefront." She continues, "We're known as the voice of the valley, which is our tagline, and I think when people think of that, they think of specifically like Mahoning Valley, where it's located, but we have so many entrepreneurs and so many people who have left the valley and are doing amazing things in the DMV area, even in South Africa, even in Atlanta, Georgia. So just also showcasing that our roots are outside of city limits as well. They're wide-ranging, so we definitely want to hone in on that.”

Family First

Dontaira also plans to keep the business in the family, from her nieces and nephews to her sisters (she has a total of three), while using their voices and skills to reach multiple generations. “Definitely, and not even my sisters. Also, like I said, the nieces and nephews, so definitely plan on utilizing their skill sets in terms of, like I said, tapping into a younger generation, putting them as reporters. Let them talk to people their age, what are you talking about? What’s going on out there? What are those conversation starters? What do you wish older people or your parents or aunties would know or not know?" She says.

"Also, my dad; we are including him as the community liaison. So he is very excited about that. And yes, my sisters, whether they're featured in an article or contributing in some way, shape, or form, everyone will be included at some point. Even like February, Black History Month, we did do a feature on my sister, who is a Hampton graduate because she is the first Black audiologist in the Midwest.”

The Legacy Continues

Being the co-owner and editor-in-chief of such a beloved newspaper and revamping it is no small feat. However, she measures her success and the success of the Buckeye Review by the positive feedback she receives from readers. “I would like to have stories that resonate with different people. I feel like if people can say, 'Oh my goodness, I read this on your website' or 'I read this in your paper.' 'Thank you for publishing that.' Oh, my goodness.' If they can come up to me and say things like that, then I know I've done my job, or I'm doing a great job," she explains.

"I feel like the power of words is so unique, so amazing. There's strength in words. So just having this platform is a responsibility not just to myself, but like I said, for FAMU, you know, the institution that shaped me, for my hometown in Youngstown that molded me, and also for my family because this is like a family legacy and also for other aspiring journalists or other journalists who I've always admired.

"I feel like it's like a great responsibility, and I just hope to showcase journalism integrity. I hope to showcase quality content. I hope to showcase something that resonates a little bit for everyone. And I hope that people are seen, they're heard, they're valued, and they know if they come to the Buckeye Review, it will definitely be worth their while.”

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