Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Staying Connected: What the Black Press Can Teach Other Newspapers about Survival

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Staying Connected: What the Black Press Can Teach Other Newspapers about Survival

Article excerpt

WHENEVER I HEAR THE DOOM-AND-GLOOM PROGnostications about the future of newspapers, my mind flashes to Philadelphia. The city, whose history embodies so much of our nation s origins, is also home to one of my favorite newspapers, itself a historic institution. For 125 years it has steadfastly served the residents of the City of Brotherly Love, delivering the vital news and information that support the principles of a free society and empower its citizens.

I've never heard any gossip or insinuation about whether this newspaper is going to survive the pressures of our recession, the onslaught of technology, or the shifting whims of a new generation of readers. The paper publishes every weekday, continues to diversify its information with regional sections, and still offers not one, but two color magazine supplements. And yes, it even maintains a Web site.

It has never hired an investment banking firm to shop for angel investors in order to be rescued from economic hardships. There have been no repeated employee cuts of its considerable editorial and administrative staffs like those imposed by its rival daily newspapers across town.

The newspaper I'm referring to is The Philadelphia Tribune, and if you haven't heard of it, there is a good reason why. the Tribune's primary readership is African Americans. I say primary, because the city's business community is also very familiar with the newspaper and regularly advertises in its pages to tap into the $25 billion black households in the Philadelphia area earn annually. So what can the Philadelphia Tribune teach publishers of general market dailies about success?

For that matter, what can the newspaper industry learn from the 200-plus black newspapers across the country about survival? A lot, apparently, since not a single black newspaper has gone out of business in the last four years.

Keep in mind, black newspapers have had to sustain a business model that lacked all the financial luxuries of their general market daily counterparts. They've never enjoyed the sort of ad revenue that compares with other local media. As privately held companies, there was no way to incite Wall Street for investment. They do have, however, the one thing that still matters most in the media business, and that is a trusted pact with their audience that they will always act in the readers' best interest by informing them in ways other outlets will not. …

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