This week’s featured media mogul is none other than Justice Gray, editor-in-chief of The Demo Tape. Learn more about Justice’s creative journey below.
You are a multi-talented individual dipping and dapping in a bunch of other expressive fields. So, what was it about journalism or media that piqued your interest?
“Oddly enough, journalism did not initially pique my interest. I’m sort of here by accident because I initially wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. I didn’t enjoy the political science classes though, so my advisor directed me to at least pursue an undergraduate degree in a field that would sharpen my writing. I thought journalism would be perfect for both writing and research skills. What I didn’t know was that I would fall in love with it to where it would change the trajectory of my entire career path.
I just found everything about it interesting. Whether it be the writing or audio/visual
aspect, I just loved being able to create and bring to life whatever the wildest ideas my
imagination had in mind. To this day, the concepts and ideas I get most excited about are the ones I randomly come up with. Whenever I work on projects outside of The Demo Tape, creative freedom and control is still something that I try to retain because it allows me to freely express myself.”
How did you get your start in the media field? Did you study communications in college? Internships? Hobby writing?
“After switching my major in college from political science to journalism, my first
journalism professor encouraged the entire class to begin building their portfolios instead of waiting for calls from the CNN’s and NBC’s of the world. So I went back to my dorm that morning, and while I was sitting in the study lounge, I decided to call Jordan Taylor and The Demo Tape was born on March 31st, 2015. The Demo Tape was my first creative platform, and definitely, my favorite that I’ve been able to contribute to – no bias though.”
Tell us how you built up your platform. What’s your mission/goals? Who’s your audience?
“It’s been a complete team effort. I’d be remiss to not mention everyone who’s played a
part in building The Demo Tape. Whether it be Jordan being here since day one,
Brandon Austin coming in and never wavering in his belief in us, or Gabrielle Manning-Jones forever going above and beyond on anything we ask her to do administratively. There’s so many more names, and I just want everybody that sees The Demo Tape to know this isn’t just me; I haven’t done this by myself. To be this good, for this long, you have to have a team.
Through the years thus far, we’ve been able to build our platform by delivering content
consistently and being able to adapt to the latest trends in terms of how to best deliver content. Whether it be interviews, videos, interactive segments, playlisting, or whatever the case may be, our team has been able to adapt and meet our target audience where they are. Right now, our audience looks like our staff; people ages 18-25, predominantly Black, who enjoy a central location to intertwine their passions in music, sports, pop culture, and a variety of other interests.
My mission is not so much tied up into clicks, or the big name interviews with the latest
celebrities. I’ve always said my mission is to inspire. When I started The Demo Tape, the list of people my age that looked like me and were doing what I was doing was slim. I want to be the role model to kids, especially from Baltimore, who are aspiring to become journalists. Impacting Baltimore in that way is immeasurable to me.”
So far throughout your career, what has been your proudest personal media moment?
“Though I’m proud of a lot of the stories I’ve had the privilege of writing and the pieces
I’ve been able to create, my proudest moments have not come from anything I’ve ever written. In fact, my proudest moments have come from what other writers of The Demo Tape have been able to do. I love it when somebody comes to us, and we’re able to give them a platform and help them elevate. I’m proud of Njera Perkins not only for what she’s been able to contribute to The Demo Tape, but for what she’s then been able to accomplish with other publications like Afro Tech and The Gumbo. It makes my day when I see Maurice Valentino traveling the world and pursuing his passions, and to get a phone call from him saying I’ve made a difference in his life.
I’m also proud of the annual back-to-school shows we’ve coordinated, where the price of
admission for attendees is school supplies donations for Baltimore City students. Through that, we’ve been able to help a number of families prepare their students for the school year.”
What advice would you give aspiring mediapreneurs looking to enter the field?
“I would give any aspiring mediapreneurs the same words of advice I heard the legendary Don Hewitt once say: “tell me a story.” I fell in love with journalism because I became enamored with the art of storytelling. At its core, I believe that is the driving force behind the best journalism. All the administrative things you will learn throughout your journey are important, and it never hurts to broaden your repertoire and pick up different skills, but the essence of all of this comes from those four words: “tell me a story.”
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