Fulbrighter Creates Innovative Platform for Black College Culture
Jonathan Rabb, Founder/CEO of Watch The Yard
Fulbright U.S. Student in Journalism to Germany, 2012
How do you build and maintain community in digital spaces? It’s a question Jonathan Rabb has asked and answered throughout his career as a journalist, television host, researcher, and CEO. A University of Minnesota graduate in German and International Relations, Jonathan first broached this question as a Fulbright Young Professional Journalist to Germany, combining his passion of Journalism and German language and culture.
“I found the Fulbright project that I wanted to do was the perfect time and place to mix both of those things together,” Jonathan said of his interests in German and journalism. Jonathan’s Fulbright grant allowed him to research digital audience development and cross-platform storytelling at Germany’s premier digital creative lab, UFA Lab, while working on multiple collaborations with YouTube Germany, interning at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, and covering Europe’s largest social media conference as well as former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Germany.
It was during this period of discovery that Jonathan started Watch The Yard—a media company poised to revolutionize the Black college experience. “I started Watch the Yard while doing a Fulbright grant in Germany,” Jonathan says. “I saw that there was this big hole online where nobody was addressing Black fraternities and sororities. I am part of a Black fraternity, so I created the idea for Watch The Yard—digitalize the concept of the Black Greek yard.”
Combining Jonathan’s passion for storytelling, community, and the Black experience, Watch the Yard empowers the next generation of leaders, builders, and doers by digitizing Black college culture, archiving Black legacies, and celebrating their contributions – as the platform’s mission states. Jonathan has built a community worthy of recognition—each month, Watch The Yard attracts more than 12 million people to its social media platforms and website. In addition to serving as a 2016 Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Ambassador, he has promoted the Fulbright Program, and other international exchange opportunities, to this online community.
In recognition of Jonathan’s efforts, Forbes named Watch The Yard to its list of “100 Black-Owned Businesses to Support.” Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism named Jonathan as one of 12 Nieman Visiting Fellows for 2021. Through his Nieman project, Jonathan will examine the ways in which minority-owned news outlets are affected by the loss of advertising revenue models, while continuing to provide essential journalism by, about, and for underrepresented communities. Most recently, Watch The Yard was selected to be an official streaming partner of the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration.
As Jonathan continues to create and lead new initiatives to engage underrepresented communities, he reflects on the transformative impact of his international exchange experience, by noting, “My Fulbright experience was essential to giving me the tools that I needed to build these digital platforms. It allowed me to gain extremely valuable new perspectives and surround myself with brilliant minds.”