A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Diversity In-Brief

By Quill

Black press moves to expand on Web

A Washington-based organization of about 200 black newspaper publishers was planning in May to launch an effort to help member newspapers publish online and develop a national black news service. The program, announced May 10 at a breakfast meeting with Congressional Black Caucus members, was to be funded initially with a $125,000 contribution from United Parcel Service of America Inc. “This will be a huge microphone for the black press to be heard on the Internet,” John J. Oliver Jr., president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), told The Washington Post. Oliver, who is also chief executive of the Washington and Baltimore Afro-American newspapers, said the news service will “make sure stories get around [from] coast to coast, and the causes we are fighting for and promoting will be heard.” Ben Jealous, NNPA’s executive director, said only 10 percent of their member newspapers – weeklies with an average circulation of 26,000 – had an active Web site. By contrast, the Arlington-based National Newspaper Association said that about 50 percent of its 3,200 community newspaper members – with a median circulation of 30,000 – have an online presence. “Most people can’t afford the required technology expertise to maintain the site,” Jealous told the Post. “It’s too expensive for virtually any community newspaper.” While many larger, mainstream newspapers are struggling to make a profit in their online editions, Jealous said the proposed news service could save money for his member papers because they all have similar interests in national and local stories. “What we’re moving toward is the first true black community news service,” or the “black AP,” Jealous said. “That’s the real power here – when you do this you create a unified database of content and so all of a sudden people can go to any black newspaper site and search for stories running in any of the other black newspapers.” The group will direct $70,000 of their grant money to the development of software for their member newspapers to use in fashioning their own online sites. The rest of the money will be allocated toward training the papers’ staff to use the software. The group said it hopes to assist at least 50 newspapers in getting online by the end of the summer.

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