Black newspapers in particular played a key role in American history. The first were founded in the early 1800s as an outlet for abolitionist sentiment and action. By the turn of the century, nearly every major city had a Black newspaper focused on the issues that the general dailies did not cover. Guthrie, the territorial capital of Oklahoma, alone had a dozen Black newspapers in 1900. Key issues such as segregation, voting rights, police brutality and racial discrimination found a first and important voice in these papers.
Now, however, Black papers are facing the same economic pressures of their general market counterparts – lower ad rates, readers moving to the Internet and escalating print costs.
Some of the newspapers whose daily print versions have become extinct since 2008 include Chicago Free Press, Christian Science Monitor, The Democrat, The Independent, New York Press, The Observer, The Sentinel, The Sun and Sun Tribune. Many newspapers that are still in business have reduced printing, shifting from being a daily periodical to a weekly periodical like The Atlanta Daily World.
Good and credible websites and blogs have emerged to fill some of this void. Here at Interactive One, we publish Newsone and partner with theGrio, a property of NBC News. The Washington Post publishes the ROOT. Millions of people go to these and other sites every day to get news and opinion from a Black perspective.
But there is still a place for the Black newspapers. Their historic legacy, deep community relationships,journalistic integrity and well-known brands can be the foundation for a strong future. The newspapers must transition to a digital world, and like other newspapers that often comes with disruption and pain.
And they cannot do it alone.
We have built a scalable platform at Interactive Onethrough our Studios program that helps brands accelerate their digital strategies cost effectively.
We are excited to announce that we are currentlydeveloping a relationship with Real Times Media, a company that owns some of the most respected Black newspapers in the country, including The Chicago Defender, The Michigan Chronicle and The New Pittsburgh Courier. We hope that this will be a model for other Black papers so more news will be accessible in the digital world.
This means that local urban communities can connect with and strengthen ties with other communities, share tools and services, and focus on what they do best, building the best local content. It also allows an easy way for Chicago tolearn what is happening in Detroit and Detroit to learn what is happening in Pittsburgh, drawing connections and critically analyzing national issues that affect the larger Black community in the United States and the world.
By embracing the digital shift, Black newspapers can remain the local “watchdog” for relevant issues and continue to bolster the Black community economically, culturally and spiritually.