Extinction Not On The Agenda

     The idea of extinction did not bear much weight in a 1959 survey of Negro publisher opinion on the subject that came up with such replies as: "Opportunity as wide as a barn door," by the editor of the Afro-American; "...the Negro paper will remain in circulation," and "...the time is too far off when color discrimination in news matter will cease for the Negro paper to be... alarmed as to the white paper taking its place," by Chester A. Franklin, editor-publisher of the Kansas City Call. There was a preoccupation among the respondents with greater advertising revenues and the means for gaining it. A more favorable standing with local and national advertisers was the primary concern then, and that was to be achieved "through organized and concerted action in the employment of expert statisticians to gather the correct data on the Negro market." The development of strong local publications and of cooperative associations formed to reduce overhead, was set down as an inescapable complement of growth. Thus, while the ghost of competition from radio, television, and white dailies stalked the publications in that day and provoked challenge, talk of departing in the quiet death was absent.

     In general, Negro publishers and editors have been more disposed to regard the intrusion of general organs upon their hitherto private domain as a test of their own powers to survive in a competitive society. They have preferred to look upon their own properties as already peculiarly fitted to cater to a formidable minority even after its social goals are realized. For the New York Amsterdam News "the first duty of any Negro newspaper is its continued struggle for a more democratic America." The St. Louis Argus believed "the Negro press as such will cease to be" only when the United States and its citizens "honor the dignity of every man." The Kansas City Call, on the other hand, wanted the time to come when "every man, woman, and child...is provided equal treatment on every level of activity."

     They saw their newspapers adjusting themselves to shifting reading and advertising tastes, to a new assortment of rivals, and to challenging demands upon their own ingenuity and resources. They looked upon the diverse groups of racial, religious, and specialized journals existing in the nation and saw no need to expect an end to their publications simply because they were once Negro organs in a segregated order.


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February 2000