Eleanor Holmes Norton

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is calling on the federal government to change the way it distributes its advertising dollars. (AFRO File Photo)

The trade associations for Black-owned and Latino-owned newspapers are making a push to get more advertising dollars for their members from the federal government. On April 29, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) was joined by leaders of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, chairman of the board Denise Rolark Barnes and the president/CEO Dr. Benjamin Chavis and the National Association of Hispanic Publications president and CEO Martha Montoya on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to support the release of a letter written by the delegate to the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO). The AFRO is a member of the NNPA.

The letter, sent to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the GAO, requests a report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned newspapers and media companies.

“The federal government is the largest advertiser in the United States, and it is important that news outlets and media companies owned or published by people of color with a primary mission to serve communities of color have the same opportunities as other media outlets – especially as African Americans and Hispanic Americans continue to grow in number in our country,” Norton said in the letter. “In 2007, GAO looked into spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses by five agencies – the Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Interior and the NASA – and found that just 5 percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising campaigns went to minority-owned businesses. We request an update showing how federal agencies spend their advertising dollars.”

Among the lawmakers who signed Norton’s letter were U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), John Conyers (D-Mich.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Chavis said minority media needs federal support. “This is not about charity, it’s about equality, in particular what federal agencies spend is at stake,” Chavis said to the NNPA News Wire. “Hopefully, in the remaining months of President Obama’s administration, there will be an expedited effort to correct what appears to be a gross inequity.”

Malcolm Beech publishes The Eagles News a Black bi-monthly publication that circulates in the District, North Florida, eastern North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. He is also the president of the National Business League. Beech told the AFRO that he supports Norton writing the letter to the GAO because minority media should have its fair share of federal advertising dollars. “Sometimes when African-American newspapers approach advertisers, their ad person says that they can reach the Black consumer through the general media,” Beech said. “We try to explain to these advertisers that minority consumers will respond to their products and services more if they see the ads in minority newspapers or other media.”

Radio One is the country’s largest radio company that targets Black listeners. The founder and chairman of the board is Cathy Hughes and her son, Alfred Liggins III, is the president and CEO. Radio One released a statement through its corporate communications vice president Yashima White Azilove regarding Norton’s letter. “Most media buying decision makers at both agencies and companies are not minorities, do not personally consume minority media and do not understand the effectiveness of using Black media with Black-focused ad copy and production,” the Radio One statement said. “These industry decision makers understand ethnic marketing when there is a language barrier, but few appreciate the value of Black segmentation and opt to reach African Americans in general market buys.”

Krystal Knight is the managing editor of Capitol News, a District monthly newspaper that is published by a company that is owned by Ward 8 businessman Phinis Jones and circulates in Wards 5, 7, and 8. Knight told the AFRO that Norton’s letter is calling for more inclusion. “Federal advertising dollars would help us tremendously,” Knight said. “We have to work very hard to convince advertisers to support us. We are working at this point at trying to get one major advertiser and that would help us sustain our operation and grow to become a bi-monthly.”

Charles Young, the public affairs officer for the GAO, told the AFRO that Norton’s letter is under review by the agency and a response to it may come within 30 days.