Black-owned newspapers have shaped conversations on current events, arts and culture for nearly two centuries. What impact do these newspapers continue to have on the African-American community and beyond? Part 1 of a discussion with Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., President & CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
See a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: Black owned newspapers have shaped conversations on current events, arts, and culture for nearly two centuries. From the first edition of the New York City´s Freedom Journal published in 1827 to today, their impact continues to be felt in all of the African-American community and beyond. Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Comcast Newsmakers.” I´m Robert Traynham, and joining me is Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr., the President and CEO of the National Newspapers Publishers Association. Dr. Chavis, welcome to the program. It is good to see you.
Chavis: Thank you, Robert. It´s good to see you again, and I appreciate the good work that you continue to do.
Traynham: Thank you, sir. And speaking of good work, let´s talk about our African-American newspapers. As I mentioned a few moments ago, they go back almost two centuries. They have always been, in my opinion, the bedrock of the community, talking about the achievements in the black community, talking about our weddings and our funerals and talking about that first person in the family that went to college, everybody that talks about it. You just go down the list.
Traynham: Frankly, when no one else would tell our story, we had to tell our own story.
Chavis: Tell our own story from March 16, 1827, to 2017. The black press has been on the frontline of not only as an advocate, but also a disseminator, distributor of the truth, the reality. We say we´re the voice of black America.
Traynham: Dr. Chavis, fast forward to today. There are a lot of people out there that are saying, “Well, are black newspapers needed? We´re so integrated. We´ve just had our first African-American President, there´s more diversity. I can pick up any newspaper or go into any website and read about ´the community´.” Are black newspapers still needed?”
Chavis: I would say, Robert, that black newspapers are needed today more than ever before.
Chavis: Because not only has our population grown over the years and over the centuries, but our impact on America. So, the trend setters — we´re trend setters. If you want to know where America´s going, you better check out where black America already is. And the black press represents that trusted view. You know, there´s a debate about alternative facts versus facts or alternative news versus real news. We´re known for reporting the truth of our community and our society and the world in which we live in. So I´m thinking, and I´m glad you asked the question ´cause I want to report to you that our readership is up.
Chavis: Millennials are reading black newspapers all over the country.And of course, we also entered a digital age,so our print content is also digitized,distributed on digital formats,and we´re very much involved in social media.But everything´s driven by content,and the content starts,I´m proud of our 211 African-American newspapers.And I know you at onetime were affiliated with the Philadelphia Tribune.That´s one of our leading newspapers.Bob Bogle is one of the leaders of the NNPA. We´re gonna give him our Lifetime Achievement Award during Black History Month this year.So we´re very pleased and proud not only of the past,but the contemporary reality that black newspapers are not only relevant,but they´re completely necessary.