Journalism has had a swift evolution, from print to radio, television, and social media. The profession is consistently adapting to the way we consume information. The average civilian’s proximity to celebrities continues to grow closer as we grow more invested in their everyday lives. We want to know it all and where exactly to get the information. So, we tuned into The Neighborhood Talk. We spoke with founder, Kyle Anfernee and the senior editor, DeAsia Robinson about how they transformed the internet into a place for us to come together and talk about the latest. Whether good or bad, it is a space to be informed, interact, and joke with each other if the subject permits.
Like most great ideas, The Neighborhood Talk started on a whim. Kyle has an education in broadcast journalism and years of experience working in the entertainment industry. After leaving his previous position, Kyle knew he wanted his next endeavor to allow him space to navigate the world of media on his terms. “Where else can I work that would allow me to go on a red carpet, go on TV, do a lot of things so fast, so young. If I was to work at E! News or Entertainment Tonight, you gotta work your way up. There are probably people there that have been there for 5-6 years and are more seasoned that would get to be on camera before me. I knew I did not want to wait that long again or have to be in the back.”
“I decided to take the tools that I’ve learned from my previous job and what I brought over there, and just go for it on my own. And I started The Neighborhood Talk the next day. That’s how that came to be.”
The name “The Neighborhood Talk” came easily. Kyle thought back to his childhood and adolescence as he tried to be inclusive and steer away from cliches. Amongst the black diaspora, we often share experiences. Kyle channeled the memory of being outside on the corner talking with neighbors about everything from music and relationships to breaking news. The digital media was missing this camaraderie; he knew it was time to bring this cultural community onto Instagram.
Currently less than 20k away from a million followers on Instagram, their team has developed an undeniable connection with readers.
Kyle Anfernee: For about the first part of the year, it was me and my sister. I had two people that aren’t on the team anymore but they were interns, but it took off the next year. We kind of got our feet off the ground when we brought in DeAsia. Who kind of brought in her own flavor, her own style. That helped set us apart from the other platforms. I had my own niche, and then she brought her niche in that helped amplify it.
DeAsia Robinson has broken the confines of rigid journalism by adapting the relaxed approach at Neighborhood. “A lot of publications hire college graduates and they teach you the proper way to report. When you go to school, they tell you to report the news as if you are on CNN. But with something like The Neighborhood or these other entertainment gossip pages, we’re a little more relaxed in our approach. I think my way of connecting and just building myself with the audience was talking to them as if they were my friends. This is my homegirl and girl let me tell you…” Her personality makes the stories she tells more dynamic. DeAsia is known as the ‘Caption Assassin’, her humor and wit quickly hooked their audience.
The staff is located all over the United States, with an employee working from major artistic hubs like Los Angeles, Atlanta, NYC, DC, and Florida. They meet frequently and virtually to accommodate their various schedules and keep up with the news cycle. But for a team so centered on fast-paced news and drama, their lives, as Kyle says, “It’s really not that interesting like people think”. They work almost every day in some capacity. Their off days are never fully off.
DeAsia Robinson: I think what a day looks like for us is that even when I’m not on the page, I’m still actively paying attention to what’s going on. I think for a job like this, you have to know your stuff. So, even if I’m off on Saturday, I can’t just put my phone down for an entire day. Say if I come on Sunday, I need to be able to pick up where things left off. So for me, I sometimes get up an hour before my shift and I’m surfing websites and comments and like Kyle said the DMs just searching for tea. It never stops. We have to turn on post notifications for people we probably wouldn’t care about most of the time. All day we are just being updated on these people’s lives just so we can report to the nosey people like us.
It is surprising to hear that the team is small in comparison to the workload they put out. Kyle and DeAsia attribute their minimal amount of free time to the size of their team but do not see it as a crutch. Being able to get stories out quickly and first are the skill they are proudest of. As they look towards growing the company, a larger team and physical workspace are on the list of goals.
“We’ll get dragged and they’ll call us messy but it is the celebrities that send us the stuff to post. That’s what gets me. We be getting dragged but we have to just take the bullets. A lot of these fans think they really know what’s going on but they don’t have the slightest idea.”Kyle Anfernee, Founder The Neighborhood Talk
Their main focus, for now, is getting verified on Instagram. Neighborhood has proven to be a reputable source that almost 1 million people turn to. However, Instagram verification has become increasingly difficult.
“I mean, we don’t have the cash app. But if we did, we can get verified on there, because I’m verified on there. And we verified somewhere else. So it’s like Instagram is the only one that gives us the hardest time getting to a million followers. But we’re almost there. So we’re about to knock out one of the biggest goals.”Kyle Anfernee, Founder The Neighborhood Talk
The journey verification so far has helped DeAsia realize the impact of their brand when the page kept getting deleted. “We went through that a few times, I started noticing that, you know, the next day, okay, 8000 followers, starting off, then the next day, we’re already at 20k. Like, those people who are used to seeing us were actually looking for us, like, let me go find the page. And then now to be almost at a million is just, it’s mind-blowing. We’re really grateful to the people that support us and the people that share our content because we wouldn’t be the neighborhood without those people.”
And the audience has become more than just viewers. They interact with the platform, making the comment section a place to look forward to. Of course, there is the frequent troll in a business run online, with extensive audience participation, Kyle and DeAsia have a simple way of handling them – the block button, block and restrict to be specific.
DeAsia: Nothing is meant in ill will like we’ll get a lot of slack for that in the comments. But as you can see, talking to us we are not mean people, we are not outside our own bodies. We just want to make people laugh. That’s all we kind of, we kind of consider ourselves like, the SNL of like, the blogs like, you know, just try to be funny.
Kyle: You can do that in our community. Because that’s like a black rule that’s underwritten. You know, I can talk about my brother, but you can’t talk about my brother. Think about the whole Jada and Will thing. There are so many memes going around, you know, we’re all laughing. But let us be somebody else that’s not with us doing that. It’s like, oh, what are you doing?
It is all fun and tea but the founder and editor find the most joy outside the razzle-dazzle. DeAsia is a fan of storytelling. Outside of funny captions, she finds comfort in the research and investigative side of reporting. Putting together an exclusive story speaks to her inquisitive side as well as gives her a leg up on other media platforms. Kyle’s bright and extroverted persona takes interest in the dark side, surprisingly enjoying reporting on murder/true crime stories. They are guaranteed success on the site, but highlighting cases that wouldn’t get mainstream coverage brings awareness as well. He makes sure to link any mutual aid or Go Fund Me links to further help the victim’s families.
Ultimately that is their biggest advice for young creatives trying to break into the media industry, find what interests you and stay consistent.