By Stacy M. Brown
Senior National Correspondent
WASHINGTON, DC — Two years ago, the National Newspaper Publishers Association enthusiastically elected a new National Chair and an Executive Committee with the promise of moving the organization to new heights and re-invigorating the Black Press of America as the trusted voice of Black communities across the nation. Less than a year into their two-year term, the world was confronted with the first global pandemic in 100 years – COVID-19. Businesses shuttered, tens of millions of individuals fell ill, and nearly 4 million died. Black businesses, in particular, were decimated. Throughout the 81-year history of the NNPA and 194 years of the Black Press of America, African Americans have remained strong, executing steadfast resilience in the face of adversity and racism. Thanks to an experienced and dedicated all-women Executive Committee who ascended to lead the national trade association, the NNPA has enjoyed perhaps two of the most successful and productive years in its history.
“Despite the pandemic, the Black Press of America is moving forward, and I’m so thankful that we have these Black women leaders who each stand for the elegance, integrity, vision, and success that Black America is known for,” NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. exclaimed. “This is the best executive team the NNPA has had in years. The organization is probably in a better financial situation in 2021 than we have been in the last three decades,” Dr. Chavis added. The NNPA’s executive includes: National Chair Karen Carter Richards of the Houston Forward Times, First Vice-Chair Janis Ware of the Atlanta Voice, Second Vice Chair Fran Farrer of the County News in Charlotte, National Secretary Jackie Hampton of the Mississippi Link in Jackson, MS and National Treasurer Brenda Andrews of the New Journal & Guide in Norfolk, VA. “The NNPA is a big part of my life,” Richards explained. “I didn’t join the NNPA. I was born into the NNPA.”
“I’ve been serving the NNPA for 40 years, right after I finished college and my father sent me to the first conference,” Ware recalled. “It was so impressive to see so many African American business owners in one place. I couldn’t be happier that I made that decision and commitment to the NNPA.” Hampton remarked that it had been her greatest honor to serve as NNPA secretary, a comment echoed by Fran Farrer, the second vice-chair. “I was so happy to be a part of this organization, and I have learned so much,” Hampton stated. “It’s been my greatest honor to set aside the time necessary to give back to an organization that has done so much for me,” she said. Added Farrer: “The strength of the Black women in leadership and in other areas can never be underestimated and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as the Executive Committee.” While 2020 proved challenging for Brenda Andrews and the New Journal & Guide, she noted how she and her team managed to overcome some of the most challenging times the world has seen. “We were able to re-establish ourselves, and we were also able to recruit and solicit new advertising based around the pandemic and the health crisis,” Andrews stated.
While about 37,000 workers were laid off or furloughed at media companies like the Los Angeles Times, Condé Nast, The Dallas Morning News, Gannett, McClatchy, National Public Radio, and VOX, the NNPA added staff and expanded services to NNPA member publishers across the nation. Buoyed by Dr. Chavis’ special on-camera interview in Charleston, South Carolina, with then Presidential candidate Joe Biden, the NNPA embarked on nationally televised livestreams.
Each week, the NNPA reached tens of thousands of viewers as it introduced the world to its publishers and business owners during the broadcasts. The NNPA livestream broadcasts reached another level when its senior national correspondent recruited A-list superstars to appear on the social media channels of the Black Press. An interview with Reggae superstar Ziggy Marley garnered a live audience of more than 168,000 and reached several million overall at Facebook.com/BlackPressUSA/Videos, and YouTube.com/c/BlackPressUSATV.
Temptations founder Otis Williams, songstress Stephanie Mills, hip-hop icons Ice Cube, Chuck D, LL Cool J, and Russell Simmons also made appearances. Members of Congress and the Senate made appearances, including then-Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Attorney Joey Jackson, Rapper DMC, comedian Sinbad, and boxing icon Sugar Ray Leonard also joined the livestreams for interviews and shout outs to the NNPA during its annual Conference. Some of the appearances the NNPA’s senior national correspondent recruited, like that of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, led to direct business and advertising sales for some members of the NNPA. The following is a list that highlights the outstanding NNPA progress and accomplishments during the past two years:
In January 2020, the NNPA hosted a high-tech consultation at the NNPA national office that included executives of Google, Local Media Association (LMA), and Association of Alternative News (AAN) that resulted in the over $1 million ad buys from Google for NNPA member publications to date, college student internships for NNPA member publications, and 18 NNPA member newspapers selected for Google News Initiative (GNI)“Google Ad Lab Transformation Program” Phase One in 2021. Phase Two will be in 2022 for the Google GNI that will extend more opportunities for NNPA member publications. Also, in January 2020, the NNPA established a partnership with Facebook that resulted in the sponsorship of NNPA conferences, grant funding of training programs for the NNPA Fund for $140,000 in 2021, and a limited NNPA ad buy for member publications. Currently, the NNPA is negotiating with Facebook about increasing its ad buys with NNPA member publications in 2021 and 2022. In 2020, for the first time in the organization’s history, NNPA-negotiated print corporate sponsorships and advertising buys for NNPA member publications exceeded $20 million. This includes ad buys from the U.S. Census and political ads. The NNPA Executive Committee and other NNPA member publishers in March 2020 participated in the historic NNPA in-person exclusive live televised interview with former Vice President Joe Biden in Charleston, South Carolinaon the eve of the 2020 South Carolina Presidential Primary Election where Biden pledged to support the Black Press of America as the next President of the United States
For the first time in the history of the NNPA, the NNPA’s public news portal, http://www.blackpressusa.com delivered achieved the milestone of 3 million pageviews per month in January of 2020. NNPA’s Digital Network increased delivery of digital advertising opportunities, generating additional revenue for NNPA member publications in each of the NNPA’s five regions in 2020. In 2020, the NNPA established and has maintained the NNPA COVID-19 Pandemic Task Force and was the first national news association to declare, based on the available scientific data, that COVID was an “airborne infectious disease” that was disproportionately deadly impacting Black America.
The Virtual NNPA 2020 Annual National Convention in July 2020 hit a record 100,000 pageviews a dramatic increase over the number of in-person attendees that have comprised the audience when the event was held in physical locations. The Virtual NNPA 2020 National Leadership Awards Reception in September 2020 had an additional 351,000 pageviews.
In January 2021, the NNPA launched a daily, Monday through Friday, early morning livestream video news show, “Let It Be Known” hosted by Stacy Brown, NNPA Senior National News Correspondent at 7:30 AM Eastern Time that attracts a growing national and international audience and engagement on behalf of the Black Press of America. NNPA’s national membership has today increased from 200 to 230 Black-owned newspapers and media companies in 2021. In 2021, a record number of 122 NNPA publishers paid their annual membership dues in the first two quarters of the year.
The NNPA in 2021 became an official member of The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA). The NNPA in 2021 has negotiated a “strategic alliance” with the U.S. Department of Commerce Small Business Association (SBA)to strengthen African American-owned businesses and to help member newspapers and other African American-owned businesses recover from the negative impact of COVID-19. The SBA will be a presenter at the Virtual NNPA 2021 Annual National Convention.
The NNPA in 2021 has negotiated a “strategic alliance” with the S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) to assist in the national dissemination of accurate and factual information about COVID-19 to Black America and to other communities of color. The CDC will also be presenting at the Virtual NNPA 2021 Annual National Convention. “The NNPA has made unprecedented progress under the leadership of Chair Karen Carter Richards and the NNPA Executive Committee, as well as with the dedication of all 17 members of the NNPA Board of Directors,” Dr. Chavis stated. “As our nation and world continue to struggle to end the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the truth is there are more opportunities today for the advancement of the Black Press of America via the NNPA than ever before.”
Dr. Chavis continued: “It continues to be my honor to work directly with the dynamic group of African American women publisher-leaders who currently serve in the important executive board leadership positions. My prayer is that God will continue to bless the Black Press with success, sustainability, and experienced leadership.”