As the adage goes, when white America catches a cold, Black America gets the flu. While the same saying can apply to mainstream media and the Black press, in both cases, it’s important to note that despite challenges, African Americans and Black-owned media alike have shown great strength and resilience.
While the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in Birmingham, Alabama (Aug. 2- Aug. 6), certainly showcased mainstream media– from the exhibit halls, to panels and special events – sessions, journalists, and leaders also weighed in on the incredible value of Black-owned media, particularly in a world where sharing truths is critically important.
“The Black Press is pivotal,” said Roy Wood Jr. of “The Daily Show,” who also hosted this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner. “The Black Press has an interesting battle now though, because in media, as a whole, funding is down. And if funding is down for mainstream, then it’s really down for Black media.”
As a comedian and journalist, Wood Jr., is no stranger to the importance of the Black Press and storytellers. His father, the late Roy Wood Sr., is a Lifetime NABJ Award recipient.
Having witnessed its power and importance, Wood Jr., emphasized that despite challenges the Black-owned media must and will persevere as an obligation and commitment to the community.
“Black media has this double-sided duty of uplifting and showing the things that have happened in the Black community that people don’t talk about, but also the Black press has a responsibility of showing the things within the Black community that the people don’t want to talk about,” Wood Jr. told the Informer. “You have to [report] with some level of care and nuance, while also maintaining the trust with the Black community, because the media has portrayed us wrong so many times in so many different ways. It’s a very, very delicate line to try and walk. And, nonetheless, it’s essential.”
NABJ didn’t forget about Black-owned media during the convention, such as The Grio’s “Dear Culture,” live podcast recording hosted by writer and podcaster Panama Jackson on Aug. 3. A hilarious, unapologetic and informative show, the podcast featured The Grio’s Michael Harriot, Wood Jr. and Jackson talking about their pride for Alabama, a state where they all lived at one point in their lives.
There was also a Black Press Task Force meeting and panel discussion held on Aug. 3. While the meeting had only a handful of attendees, many of the conversations rooted in how the Black press can continue to grow individually and together, and the most effective ways of using the NABJ convention to help in that mission.
At an Aug. 4 luncheon sponsored by Chase during the NABJ convention, Larry Lee, publisher of the Sacramento Observer, shared, firsthand, the challenges of being an African American business owner, particularly in Black media.
“As an entrepreneur, as a journalist, times have been challenging for Black newspapers, businesses and for Black businesses in particular,” Lee said in his opening remarks. “During COVID, more than 300 newspapers [went] out of business, and the challenges that entrepreneurs face are very real.”
Lee said financial partners, like Chase, are critical in maintaining funding for the Black press to not only tell stories, but continue to grow and thrive.
“I’m very proud to say and to see how Chase has been partnering with the Black press throughout the country to help uplift Black businesses and efforts that Black businesses face.”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin was a panelist at the Chase luncheon, which discussed the ins and outs of being a Black-owned small business owner, and the resources available to thrive.
Woodfin told the Informer that the Black Press is necessary in keeping the city of Birmingham, the nation and the world informed.
“First of all, shoutout to the Birmingham Times,” Woodfin said, particularly noting the Black-owned publication’s founder Jesse Lewis, who was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame this year.
“I got my copy Thursday and it’s literally the only print remaining left,” the mayor said about the Birmingham Times, which that week prominently featured pre-coverage of the NABJ convention.
With headlines and anchors, alike, announcing so much tragic, concerning and, at times, conflicting, news, the Mayor Woodfin emphasized that the Black press is critical.
“There’s so much negativity in media,” Woodfin continued. “It’s good to have Black publications— printed Black publications, online Black publications— that promote not just Black, but Black business; not just Black business, but Black families; not just Black families, but all positive things going on in the Black community.”