NNPA's new chair
lays out aggressive agenda for Black newspapers to 'flex our muscles'
Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney News Wire
(July 13, 2015) Denise Rolark Barnes, the newly elected chair of
the National Newspaper Publishers Association, says the federation of
more than 200 Black-owned newspapers will continue to not only thrive
but grow as it begins its 75th year. With most newspapers industry-wide
in an economic struggle, and Black newspapers enthralled in a historic
battle against advertising discrimination, Barnes (above) says NNPA's
new leadership team will encourage a keen focus on issues that
continually plague Black communities, while initiating strategies to
"Housing, the large foreclosure rate, the issue of the lack of
police-community relations, the unwarranted deaths of young Black men at
the hands of police, the big issue of Black on Black crime -- we need to
take responsible positions on all of these issues because this is what
our community looks for, but this is also what I think our advertisers
will be looking for. They want us to take a stand on these issues," says
Barnes in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. "I'd just say
look out because we're going to flex our muscles. And we're looking
forward to doing our jobs on a broader scale and speaking stronger. And
I know the publishers are primed for it."
Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer Newspaper for more than 20
years, was given the leadership charge by her fellow publishers in a
June 19 election held during the NNPA Annual Convention in Detroit. As
publisher, she follows in the footsteps of her father, the late Calvin
Rolark, who was widely known as a business and community leader as well
as publisher of the Informer, which he founded more than 50 years ago.
The executive committee elected alongside her also includes publishers
who are well-entrenched leaders in various communities: First Vice Chair
Karen Carter Richards, Houston Forward Times; Second Vice Chair Francis
Page, Jr., Houston Style Magazine; Treasurer Janis Ware, Atlanta Voice
and Secretary Shannon Williams, Indianapolis Recorder.
"Many of us are second generation publishers. We're fairly young and are
committed to the legacy that was left by those who started in this
industry. We understand what our responsibilities are and we're looking
forward to continuing to make a difference through the stories, the
photographs, and the editorials that you'll find in Black-owned
newspapers," said Barnes.
She ticked off several initiatives foremost on her mind that the
association must explore in coming months and years in order to expand
and strengthen its membership. Among them are:
* Since NNPA operates off of sponsorships and advertising, there must be
new ways to help corporations understand the value of Black newspapers.
That will be a major effort now through a national advertising sales
team currently being established.
* Increase, solidify and grow online presence in order to engage readers
who may not readily pick up newspapers. Currently, the two NNPA websites
are NNPA.org and BlackPressUSA.com. Most NNPA member newspapers also
have their own individual websites. The NNPA Foundation, which includes
the D.C.-based NNPA News Service and Blackpressusa.com, run by
Editor-in-chief George Curry, has a separate board.
* Create genres through which readers can exchange opinions and thoughts
surrounding the issues and articles in Black newspapers.
* Consider broadening the NNPA membership base to fully include those
newspapers that only publish online as well as helping to bring back
members that may have become defunct due to economic difficulties.
* Provide greater support and service to newspapers that are evolving
into multi-media companies.
* Support the staff of the national office, also based in Washington,
D.C., in order to maximize the success of the policies set by the board.
Barnes' term as chair is two years, after which she could run for a
second two-year term. The executive committee heads a 22-member board of
directors, including representatives of five regions. The board
establishes policy and directives for the Washington, D.C. headquarters,
which is led by NNPA President/CEO Benjamin Chavis.
Chavis' stature as a former member of the recently pardoned historic
Wilmington 10 as well as his civil rights leadership as former NAACP
executive director, has raised the visibility of the organization to a
new level over the past several years. Barnes, who replaces former chair
Cloves Campbell of the Arizona Informant, says she will build on the new
growth forged by Campbell during his four-year tenure.
"NNPA for so long didn't have a president and didn't have a staff;
therefore the publishers were actually involved in the day to day
management of the association. Now, we have the benefit of both of
those, the president, the staff and the National Office. And so, the
board now can get back into the business of creating policy," she said.
The fact that the NNPA national office and chair are now both located in
the nation's capital is an additional advantage from a standpoint of
infrastructure, she said. Amidst the home of the federal government, the
U. S. Congress, she says she will work the relationships garnered by her
and her father over 50 years for the maximum benefits for NNPA.
"We serve as the voice for the Black community; we speak truth to power,
we influence legislation and I think when folks see that we're still an
integral part of our community because of the positions that we take on
behalf of our community, it will show that we have the kind of value
that's worth investing in," Barnes says. "Some may not always appreciate
the positions that we may take. But, it's not about liking what we do.
It's being respected for what we do."
She concluded, "We give you stories about communities that are working
hard to support their families, to build communities, to contribute to
this nation and to the world and I don't ever see a day - to be honest
with you - where the Black press will not play that critical role in
this country and across the world."
Photo: Roy Lewis
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