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National Leaders Address Black Press of America at Annual Conference
Citing access to healthcare, jobs and affordable housing, leaders say crisis in Black America threatens social and economic prosperity for all; Black Press has responsibility to keep the issue on front burner
The 70th meeting of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) injected new life in the debate on "The Crisis in Black America" and reaffirmed the purpose of the nation’s Black Press.
More than 200 publishers and journalists representing newspapers from every region in the country met in New York this week for the NNPA annual convention to hear from business, political, and religious leaders about major issues facing the Black community today.
Conference speakers sounded a common theme citing studies that show Blacks still trail whites along critical economic lines. The median household income for whites is $55,530 as compared to $34,218 for Blacks while the number of Blacks who lack health insurance is 19.1 percent, nearly double the rate of whites at 10.8 percent. Speaker after speaker encouraged the Black Press to be as aggressive as possible on issues of concern to their readers.
"The Black Press has a responsibility to be the voice of the community and, where necessary, to be an advocate for its readers," said Danny Bakewell, Sr., NNPA president and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel. "The NNPA and its member newspapers reach more than 15 million people each week and we exist because those readers depend on us for news that is relevant, reliable and reported from a perspective that respects what’s important to them."
Underscoring the importance of the role of the Black Press, high-profile leaders attending the conference included Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., founder, Rainbow PUSH; Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund; Dr. Charles J. Ogletree, Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Harvard University; Kathy Times, president, National Association of Black Journalists; Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and talk show host; and Dr. Bernice King, president-elect, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
"This convention brings together hundreds of Black journalists, all of whom play an important role in keeping the opportunity dialogue going," said Morial. "Our message to them was simply that the communities they serve remain in crisis in terms of skyrocketing unemployment, education, early childhood development, and access to healthcare and housing. It’s the responsibility of the Black Press to write about these issues and to exert the pressure that is needed to bring about real and lasting change in the Black community."
Black publishers said the crisis facing Black America is not limited to the communities they serve, but it also hits them squarely in the pocket. Black newspapers, they say, have suffered due to lack of advertising in their papers, making it difficult to generate enough revenue to keep their papers running.
"African American purchasing power exceeds $900 billion dollars annually so it’s a mystery to us why corporations aren’t tapping into that wealth. We believe that all companies, including the U.S. government, should be spending advertising dollars in our community proportionately to our numbers in the population and that is simply not happening," said Bakewell.
To address this problem, Bakewell told the conference he hopes to secure annual commitments for advertising and legacy-building grants to support NNPA publishers and convene a summit to develop an advertising strategy. Bakewell also announced that the NNPA is studying its Web-based strategy to address growing demand for online publications.
Although the conference theme set a serious tone, the publisher’s mood turned celebratory when U.S. Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D) New York and Motown founder Berry Gordy were honored with the NNPA’s Legacy of Excellence Award. Singer Eddie Levert of the O’Jays provided the entertainment.
About the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA)
The National Newspaper Publishers Association, also known as the Black Press of America, is a 70-year-old federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers and more than 15 million readers from across the United States. Since World War II, it has also served as the industry’s news service, a position that it has held without peer or competitor since the Associated Negro Press dissolved in 1970.
Established more than 20 years ago, the NNPA Foundation is a 501 C(3) tax-exempt organization that has traditionally focused on pre-professional training and encouraging excellence in the industry. Its four traditional programs include: the Black Press Archives and Hall of Fame at Howard University, the A. Phillip Randolph Messenger Awards for Excellence in publishing and reporting, a summer internship program offering journalism students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at Black newspapers, and a scholarship fund providing financial assistance to college and graduate students with an interest in journalism. In 2000, the foundation created the Black Press Institute and the NorthStar Center for Civic Journalism as a means of revitalizing and enhancing its programmatic activities.
For additional information, please visit www.nnpa.org.
Source: National Newspaper Publishers Association