Illustration for article titled Measuring Clout Among African Americans

For 2011 The Root set out to identify the most influential African Americans between 25 and 45 years of age. We defined influence broadly to include anyone who is shaping our daily conversations with work that matters. To identify and rank The Root 100, we developed a formula that defines influence as the marriage of reach and substance.

Broadly, we defined reach as how many people this person touches through his or her work. For substance, the editorial team scored each person based on how much he or she enriched our lives and made the world a more interesting, fun, beautiful or just place.


To calculate the substance score, our editorial team reviewed what each person had accomplished in the last year. Was he or she leading transformative change, championing big ideas, creating breakthrough art, advancing civic engagement or innovating in business and beyond? If yes, then on a 0-10 scale, that person would get a bigger number.

We checked news, blogs, critical reviews, awards and our own sharp editorial instincts to nail down the substance score. Folks who were big time in early 2010 but didn't knock us out with great work into 2011 got low scores. If Obama were 45, he'd nail a 10 substance score. We won't tell you who got the zeros.

To calculate a score for reach, we first looked up the number of mentions in traditional media in the last year, using the LexisNexis news database. We also looked up the number of search results in Google in the last year and the total number of Twitter followers. To combine those three numbers into a single reach score, we then took the logarithm of each number and added them together (taking the logarithm compresses really big numbers so that celebs don't have too much of an advantage over the less than famous).

The final influence score is simply the product of reach multiplied by substance. In the end, we scored hundreds and hundreds of people to identify The Root 100 for 2011. We're thrilled that the list reflects an amazing breadth of talent and character. We hope you find looking through The Root 100 as engaging and thought-provoking as we did while we were compiling it.


Finally, we'd like to know what you think. Who got too much love? Who got too little? What do you think of our formula? Send us a tweet @TheRoot247, and maybe you'll influence The Root 100 in 2012!

See the results of our methodology now in The Root 100 list for 2011.

Omar Wasow is a contributing editor to The Root.

Omar Wasow is an assistant professor in Princeton’s Department of Politics. His research focuses on race and politics, protest movements and statistical methods. Before joining the academy, Omar served as a regular on-air technology analyst and was co-founder of Follow him on Twitter.

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