Monday, September 12, 2005

Chicken In The Car And The Car Won't Go

So I'm going to Chicago at the end of this week, with a fabulous author friend of mine, for the Black Press Awards. Now, considering I used to be one in the black press, this is very exciting for me. I will be taking workshops specializing in Hip Hop Journalism, and my friend Dan will be selling his book in the ranks of some prominent authors.

The black press has seem some pitfalls lately, as the death of Ebony and Jet founder John H. Johnson and the selling of Essence Magazine to Time/Life have made the news. Besides that, many people in large black metropolises don't pay any attention to the plight of the black newspaper. When I was at the Post, people would always blast us for not being up on all the news in the community. It's hard to be, when we can only afford one or two full time reporters, I used to respond. The cyclical downfall of the black press is that there are not enough businesses who deem it necesary or can afford to advertise with black newspapers. In turn, there is so much more space in the paper to fill because of less ads. And since there is less money from the ads, that means the already small staff has to do even more with less to fill the newshole. People get less and less interested in the papers and in turn, advertisers turn away.

I am reading Babylon Sisters, by Pearl Cleage where she describes the dwindling importance that the black community puts on black newspapers. In Columbus, when activist Bill Moss died and the Columbus Dispatch drew an editorial cartoon that some found offensive. People talked of boycotting the Dispatch, picketing and there were so many letters to the editor, I'm sure they could have filled the paper with them. But I didn't see people turning to the Columbus Post or the Call & Post for much direction. Most people continued reading their daily, offended or not.

Which brings me to my point: I wish more people would support the efforts of the black press. Many reporters you see shining at dailies and magazines got their start there. These papers were the ones that got us through slavery and Reconstruction. And, with the support of the community, they will get us through this crazy era now. If you have some event, do some type of art or whatever, most of the time the only people that will give you some holler is your local black paper. So utilize them! And if you own a small business, their advertising rates are probably the most affordable.

So in Chicago, I plan on having a blast and learning much about the past, present and future of black newspapers and magazines. Anybody with any suggestions on the hotspots or historical sites to visit should definately let me know.


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