Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

HBCUX Network Ready for Its Opening Act

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

HBCUX Network Ready for Its Opening Act

Article excerpt

An ambitious new social media venture hoping there is money to be made by enhancing public access to supporters of HBCUs has recently launched. The Washington-based HBCUX Network, backed principally by two former veteran executives of Black Entertainment Network (BET), says it hopes its social media venture will be able to distinguish itself enough to be considered a valued complement to the growing cast of social media sites courting HBCU audiences.

HBCUX, which plans to be accessible via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with six to eight hours of programming a day, made its debut on April 7 from the campus of Norfolk State University in the Tidewater area of Virginia.

"We're not trying to compete," said Curtis Symonds, president and chief executive officer of HBCUX. "We're just trying to become another voice."

Symonds is familiar with the landscape, having worked as a BET marketing executive for more than a decade.

"We want some fresh stuff, original programming," said Symonds, acknowledging the real-time, live nature of social media interaction. "There is so much history that has not been told."

"I want to educate the middle-class Black kid on the value of these institutions," said Symonds, who grew up on the campus of Central State University, where his mother taught for 40 years and his father worked in the university's maintenance shop for 50 years.

Symonds, via phone interview, said HBCUX plans to "crawl before we walk" in building its envisioned 10-channel network offering a broad range of programming aimed at enlightening and entertaining.

He said the network plans to start with six to eight hours of programming it hopes will carry it until this fall, by which time it hopes to have more institutions and programs in its camp. The social media network plans to pay for itself and small staff through ad sales and subscriptions of $3.99 a month. For that, once the network is fully operational, subscribers will get five of its proposed 10 channels at no charge.

Symonds said he is already in discussions with more than a dozen institutions about programming ideas for HBCUX. He said he has an agreement with ESPN to receive and carry its HBCU sports programming through HBCUX channels.

"Any effort to use digital tools and social media tools connected online is a good thing," said Neil Foote, a social media expert and principal lecturer at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. …

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