Striving for Self-Liquidation?

     In his summation Young stated "Self-liquidation in the final analysis is what we are really striving for." Alone, on the other side of the question, stood Fletcher Martin, city editor of the Louisville Defender then stationed abroad for the U.S. Information Service. Even as changes occur in our society, Martin saw that some papers will pass on as has been the case all along and others will grow stronger. He saw Negro publishers as entrepreneurs who are dedicated to making a profit. Martin saw no occasion for all Black publishers to close up shop following some long-awaited gains in civil rights, education, and living conditions. "The Negro press won't die," he firmly stated.

     Young had become the chief management officer of an ably edited and successful Negro weekly, the Journal and Guide at Norfolk, Virginia. At the start of the century his father, P.B. Young, Sr., had taken a fraternal organ, nurtured and developed it into what was considered the most highly respected news journal in the Negro field. He had also reared his two sons -- P.B., Jr. and Thomas -- to assume the family responsibilities in the business. Both sons were Ohio State University journalism graduates and Thomas, in addition, was a law school graduate.

     In l938 the senior Young held a brighter, although limited, prospect for the Negro newspaper. He was not of the inclination then to foretell demise or think in terms of extinction. In an address at Morehouse College he noted the expanding opportunities for Negro artists in radio and the growing number of Negro pages in white newspapers. This had a special meaning for the Negro newspaper proprietor of that day, for it called for sharpened wits, intelligence, flexibility, and firmer control in the organization and direction of Negro papers. "It is as certain as anything can be, that under existing editorial and news policies the Negro press does not adequately deal with the fundamental needs of two-thirds of the Negro people of this country," he said.

     In his view there was room for improvement. But, the elder Young predicted that within a few years the physical structure, methods of treating news, and editorial policies in Negro newspapers would undergo a change as the publishers sought to adjust their functions as advocates and propagandists to the demands of a commercial operation. He believed that this special press "must lift itself above the plane of propaganda" in its championing the cause of "equal political and economic opportunity," which "is the strongest defense the Negro press has against an invasion of its field."


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February 2000