Black Press Needed Now, More Than Ever

NNPA 2017

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After a week of fellowship, panels, lectures and dinners at the National Newspaper Publishers Association Convention 2017, most guests agree the Black press is alive and needed more than ever.

Throughout the convention, held in Washington D.C., speakers stressed the importance of the press addressing issues integral to bettering the Black community. Each National Newspaper Publisher Association, or NNPA, event was geared toward making the Black press stronger, particularly considering the current political and racial climate.

NNPA President and CEO Ben Chavis, past Chairman Denise Rolark Barnes, Martin Luther King III, and new Chairman Dorothy Leavell during the National Legacy Awards Black Tie Gala on June 23. See more photos from the NNPA 2017 Convention on D3.
NNPA President and CEO Ben Chavis, past Chairman Denise Rolark Barnes, Martin Luther King III, and new Chairman Dorothy Leavell during the National Legacy Awards Black Tie Gala on June 23. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

Some people are counting on the Black press to help improve matters in the Black community, among them Martin Luther King III, an activist and the son and namesake of the famous slain civil rights leader. The younger King was the recipient of the NNPA’s 2017 Lifetime Legacy Award.

“Our communities, along with other, like minded communities, must build coalitions, and the reality is the impetus, for that kind of movement, can come from the African American press, virtually by the fact that the African American press is covering and sharing information in a way that our communities understands,” King told the AFRO. “Then we understand we’ve got to respond and react to it.”

The conference included a town hall on parenting and education, a “Millennials Matter” panel focused on promoting positive narratives in the Black communities and discussions on making improvements to the way news is relayed.

“Accessibility is important because we like things quick, so the more accessible it is, the more we’ll be willing to pick it up and read it,” Brown said.

“In terms of creativity, one of the panelists for the Millenials Panel, brought up, if you’re teaching elementary kids, like why aren’t you using more colors, vibrant colors to get their attention, putting more puzzles and coloring things into these publications so after they read they can color,” Brown told the AFRO. “So definitely being creative is the way the Black press comes across, and the themes and topics, is a big thing.”

“Visibility is important,” she added. “It’s important to always remain visible. I think sometimes the Black press gets lost where one day we’re visible, one day we’re not. How [can] we be visible to our community and other people? How [can] we be visible not just with our African American communities but other demographics . . . because there are other types of minorities that we can be helpful to. So definitely making sure we remain visible and use all our tools to do that.”

The panelists said that millennials have a lot to offer such as their comfort with social media and new trends, and want their talents to be utilized. “Ask us for our help. We need things to do and we will help you,” said Noni Marshall, a Howard University student, and a recipient of the NNPA’s Discover The Unexpected fellowship currently working at The Washington Informer.

Besides the knowledge they possess, and to dispel the myth that all millennials are know-it-alls, the panelists said they are eager to learn as much as they can from the older generation of the Black press. “We are very hungry to learn. We want to know what you guys want to share with us,” Marshall told the group of Black press members, primarily from the baby boomer generation.

The NNPA’s Merit Awards Dinner on June 22 honored the achievements made by the Black press in the past year. Among the award-winners were The St. Louis American, who won a host of awards throughout the night, including the “Russworm/Sengstacke Trophy for General Excellence.” The “Best Publisher” award went to dinner host and NNPA At-Large representative Jackie Hampton of The Mississippi Link. Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader, was elected as the next chairman of the group. She replaces Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer.

Before the conference’s final celebration, the Legacy Award Black Tie Gala, Martin Luther King III told the AFRO that the Black press is still important in shining a light on disparities, police brutality, and poverty affecting the African American community. “In this time there are probably more stories than ever available, because our communities are impacted the worst,” he said.