A group of just over 100 men and women, all devoted to promoting the positive contributions and aspects of the Black press, attended the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Mid-Winter Conference last week in Miami, where the main topic was finding ways to retool and revitalize the group whose over 200-members, all owners of Black newspapers in America, have been addressing news relevant to and impacting the Black community following a tradition established in 1827 with the publishing of the “Freedman’s Journal” – the nation’s first Black newspaper.
Publishers of Black newspapers from across the U.S., along with their editors, writers, special guests and speakers participated in the four-day event. Since its founding 75 years ago, the NNPA has sought methods to assist its members in their quest to provide well-written, provocative and authentic news about the Black community.
Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer and the NNPA’s chairperson, described the conference as “extremely successful” – something she’s quite “proud.”
“I listen to the concerns and desires of our publishers and at the conference we sought to fulfill those requests,” said Rolark Barnes whose father, Dr. Calvin Rolark, Sr., founded the D.C.-based Informer over five decades ago. “The feedback we received was extremely encouraging as most publishers said we ‘hit the mark.’”
Rolark Barnes said moving forward and based on discussions held in Miami, the NNPA stands on the belief that the Black press remains alive and well with digital media serving as an excellent opportunity to broaden their brand.
“Our future lies in the hands of the next generation of publishers who are anxious and ready to step into the role,” she said. “We will build on these themes and work closely with the corporate community to help them understand the value we bring to their brands as well as to other non-profit organizations and publications.”
Rolark Barnes noted that there will be additional opportunities to build on the NNPA’s brand including Black Press Week, which takes place in the District in March and the NNPA’s annual conference, scheduled for June 2016 in Houston.
NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. referred to the conference as a “strategic success.”
“We are facing several opportunities and challenges, one being the digital issue,” he said. “But I see that as more of an opportunity. To the extent that our newspapers embrace the digital platform, it will enhance the value and effectiveness of the print platform. I see a bright future for African-American-owned newspapers.”
Chavis pointed to several new relationships recently forged by the NNPA with other like-minded groups including the National Association of Hispanic Publications [NAHP] as an illustration that the Black press recognizes the importance of adapting to the country’s changing demographics.
“It’s in the best interest of Hispanics and Blacks to work together and I believe that when we collectively sit down with the Congressional Black Caucus in March during Black Press Week to address public policies that impact the quality of life for both the Black and Hispanic communities, our voices will be heard – our concerns will not be ignored.”
“For 189 years, the Black press has remained true to its calling, serving as the unrestrained voice of Black America,” Chavis added. “We have been the bodacious, bold articulation of the interests, particularly today, for over 45 million Blacks. So, we should celebrate, during 2016’s Black History Month, the long, distinguished legacy of the Black print press in America.”
One highlight from among the many workshops, presentations and networking sessions that took place during the Mid-Winter Conference included the conferring of the NNPA 2016 Global Lifetime Achievement Award to Garth Reeves, Sr., publisher emeritus for The Miami Times – publication founded by his father, Harry E.S. Reeves, in 1923.
Reeves became publisher and chief executive office when his father died in 1970. He served for 10 years as president of the Amalgamated Publishers of New York City, an organization that once represented over 100 Black-owned newspapers across the U.S. and served two terms as president of the NNPA. His numerous awards reflect the hard work he’s done for the NNPA, Blacks in Miami and people of color around the world.
During his acceptance speech, Reeves talked about his father, his relationships with other publishers dating back to the 1950s and his continued commitment to the Black press.
“The Black press has always been led by people who wanted to serve and wanted to see positive change for our community,” said Reeves, who will turn 97 on February 12. “That hasn’t changed.”
Reeves continued: “I’m proud of the fact that our newspaper, The Miami Times, has never missed publishing an issue since our founding over 90 years ago. Working for The Miami Times has been the only job I’ve ever had. I learned the business well. My father saw to that. I learned how to make money and how to produce something of which I continue to be proud. And I’ve made some good friendships along the way by being involved with the NNPA.”