The Future of the Black Press

     The following discussion concerning the future of the Black press is exerpted from the book A History of the Black Press, by Armistead S. Pride and Clint C. Wilson II.

Survival Debates and the Common Cause

     Over the years, many pundits have expressed themselves on the matter of whether the Black press will survive and, if so, for how long. In a statement released in observance of the l949 National Negro Newspaper Week, Thomas W. Young, then president of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, dwelt upon the prospective death of Black newspapers. Young said that once the general press routinely reported the Negro’s personal and group news, crusaded against injustices and inequalities, and chronicled the achievements of the race, the foundations for Negro organs would crumble and they "would cease to be." He added: "The more closely it approaches success the nearer it propels itself to the brink of oblivion. And if it should eventually succeed in helping to create the kind of society for which it strives, the Negro Press will have contrived its own extinction." Young's dictum ended there: "extinction."

     Thomas Young repeated his position on the future of the Black press two months later in a symposium conducted by the Lincoln University School of Journalism. Four Black newsmen discussed the question, "Is the Negro Newspaper Here to Live or Die?"

     In his camp were two other members of the panel: William G. Nunn, managing editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, and Charles H. Loeb, news editor of the Cleveland Call and Post. At the outset Nunn stated flatly "The Negro newspaper...will eventually die." He saw the end at the point where the Black man realized first-class citizenship. For him that would be the millennium, the point signaling that he and hundreds of others had worked themselves out of their jobs.

     For Loeb the point of extinction was approaching because (a) the Black paper was less needed as a crusader for human rights, (b) it operated on dangerously unsound foundations, largely under individual ownership, and published largely in white print shops, (c) it had not found the formula to enrich advertising accounts, forcing it to rely too heavily on circulation income, and (d) limited staffs and limited training prevented Black newspapers from modernizing their news presentation and plants.


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February 2000