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 2 of a discussion with Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., President & CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
See a partial transcript of the interview below:
Traynham: Dr. Chavis, you touched on something that I want to go back to, and that is the rise in readership or the number of eyeballs, if you will, because for a while there, we’ve heard that all newspapers, not just black newspapers, but all newspapers have actually seen a decline in their readership. Why do you think that black newspapers, to use your point, is actually on the rise?
Chavis: I think black newspapers are on the rise because our content is authentic. You not only get the news, but you get the news in a cultural context.
Traynham: Can you give an example of that? I think that´s important.
Chavis: Yeah, absolutely. When hip-hop first arose, most people didn´t pay any attention to it, but black newspapers were on the scene. And these artists now have become entrepreneurs. So keep in mind that our newspapers are second- and third-generation newspapers. So, they´ve been at this a long time. So we can sense a trend before it really happens in mainstream. So people come to us now, and I have to say, not only do black Americans read black newspapers, but white Americans, Latinos, Asians. Our readership is overall across demographic lines. I´m very proud of the black press in America.
Traynham: Well, you know, Dr. Chavis, you touched on something else I wanted to — do you know percentage-wise how many non-African Americans read black newspapers? Do you have any idea what that number might be?
Chavis: Well, about 95% of all black people read black newspapers, but I would say that 10% to 15% of whites, 20% of Latinos read our newspapers. Asian Americans, Native Americans. We´re very proud that — I´ll say this on your program. The black press in America is becoming the new mainstream press.
Traynham: I agree with that. You know, it´s fascinating, Dr. Chavis, because I have a habit in the morning, when I can, is I´ll read a mainstream newspaper and I´ll read the black newspaper on the same story.
Traynham: It could be the Affordable Healthcare Act, it could be diabetes, it could be heart — whatever the case may be, and the way that it´s written in the black community is way, way different. Something that obviously I can relate to. Perhaps maybe it´ll give an example in the black community. Perhaps maybe it´s an African-American reporter that just adds another twist to the story that gives it a little flavor and uniqueness.
Chavis: I´ll give you a real-time anecdote. Right now, the new education scene, there´s something called the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA. It takes the place of Leave No Child Behind. Most people have never heard of ESSA. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just gave the NNPA a $1. 5 million grant to raise public awareness about ESSA. Why the black press? Because they know we´re rooted in our communities. We have the ability and the capacity not only to present facts, but present facts in a way where people are able to understand the facts and take action. Usually in our newspapers, there´s also a call to action. What should we do about healthcare? What should we do about housing? What should we do about education? What should we do about mass incarceration? What should we do about sickle cell anemia? All these things are part of what we do every week through the black press in America.
Traynham: Dr. Chavis, we got about 30 seconds left. Fast forward to 2070.
Traynham: Let´s say it´s, you know, 40, 50 years down the line. What is the state of black newspapers in the year 2070?
Chavis: In 2070, black newspapers will be still vibrant, relevant, and like I said, they will probably be the mainstream. There´s a flip flop. As the demographics change, as we become more diverse, diversity is the strength of our democracy, not a weakness, and I´m so glad that the black newspaper has played and continues to play a constructive role in our democracy.
Traynham: Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr., thank you very much for being a voice in the community and thank you for all your great work.
Chavis: Thank you. God bless.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us for this edition of “Comcast Newsmakers.”I´m Robert Traynham. Have a great day.We´ll see you next time.Bye-bye.