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State’s Black media leaders pushing for stimulus dollars…

May 1, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Wilmington, Florida -Black publishers of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) are concerned that there is nothing “designed” in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package to do business with Black newspapers.

Florida’s Black-owned media say they are taking a more direct approach to get a fair share of the stimulus money flowing through the state. Owners were scheduled to meet on April 30, after the Florida Courier’s press time, with Gov. Charlie Crist for a roundtable discussion to include stimulus money and doing “regular” business with the state.

Bobby Henry, publisher of the South Florida-based Westside Gazette, called the move “proactive rather than reactive.” Vaughn Wilson, sales manager of the Tallahasseebased Capitol Outlook, told the Florida Courier, “We are meeting directly with (Crist) to ensure we are included. The stimulus’ purpose was to help those affected by the downturn of the economy. We are on the front lines, because advertising is the first thing most businesses cut.

We are legitimate businesses that employ people, provide services, and pay taxes,” Wilson explained. We shouldn’t have to fight any more than the next man for stimulus dollars. Meeting Gov. Crist is a positive first step.”

Black publishers are also concerned that they’ll can’t inform Black communities about stimulus opportunities beyond just reporting about it, when paid advertising allows a repetitive and consistent message to be conveyed.

No federal ‘earmark

While we publishers wholeheartedly applaud the president’s efforts of making certain economically devastated communities of color are able to benefit from the billions of dollars within the stimulus package, it is unclear whether any of the money has been earmarked to otherwise help educate the very communities serviced by the Black media, as well as how they are to access the myriad of opportunities,” NNPA Board Chairman John B. Smith, Sr. wrote in an April 23 letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel; President Obama’s Special Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

With opportunities to use the proven outreach mechanism of NNPA’s more than 200 Blackowned newspapers to educate those in need on how to take advantage of the money flowing into their communities, Chairman Smith, publisher of the Atlanta Inquirer, added that the omission of the Black Press from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was “most disheartening and perplexing.”

He made reference to remarks made at a recent White House Black Press teleconference with Van Jones, special advisor to the president on “green” jobs. Jones told Black reporters that officials with the U.S. Commerce Dept. were “very enthusiastic and excited” about using “their existing mechanisms to make sure that there is outreach to those parts of the country that may need more information” about the American Recovery and Investment Act. But he also made clear that for now that doesn’t include advertising in African-American newspapers.

There is nothing in the recovery package as designed to accomplish… advertising [in Black media] ,” Jones replied when asked by a journalist.

No outreach through Black media

That’s not sitting well with NNPA publishers. During a recent NNPA regional meeting in North Carolina, many said that while they applaud the president’s efforts to make sure economically devastated communities of color are able to benefit from the billions contained in the stimulus package, it makes no sense that none of those dollars are earmarked to help educate those very communities through their media about how to access those opportunities.

At that meeting, NNPA publishers from Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina agreed that their dire concerns about the economic future of the Black Press must be made clear to both the Obama administration and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Broken promise?

It was April 29, 2008, during the hot Democratic primary race for the presidency when then-frontrunner Sen. Obama, during an exclusive North Carolina Black Press roundtable, assured Black newspaper publishers that he was well aware of the struggles of African-American newspapers and if elected, would do what he could to assure more access to federal contracts and advertising.

One thing specifically we can do in terms of federal procurement is just to break up some of these contracts. They are just too large,” a video of the session shows Obama telling Black publishers, noting that when it came to legal advertising, the federal government traditionally does business with large newspaper chains, but not small independent enterprises.

When it comes to legal advertising… legal notices many [Black newspapers] would be interested in, I do not think it’s saving a whole lot of money to simply do it with one big [newspaper] chain, as opposed to break up some of that work and make sure that everybody is able to access it,” the future president said.

Hillary: ‘Set-asides’

The day before in Greensboro, Sen. Hillary Clinton told members of the N.C. Black Press Association that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made sure that the Black Press was an essential part of his outreach to African- Americans.

I would push very hard to get back to women and minority-owned businesses getting more setasides and more business from the federal government,” Clinton told Black publishers and reporters on April 28, 2008.

When Bill was president, he had an executive order [to] actually advertise in Black newspapers, because how are you going to get to the population that you want if you ignore the vehicles that actually communicate with people?” Sen. Clinton, during the videotaped session, is seen saying.

Indeed, during his eight years in office, President Bill Clinton issued at least three executive orders instructing various federal agencies to “assist SDBs (socially disadvantaged businesses), HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities), and MIs (minority institutions), as applicable, to develop viable, self-sustaining businesses capable of competing on an equal basis in the mainstream of the American economy.”

Black publishers say the question now is whether President Obama will at least meet that standard through the stimulus package when it comes to the Black Press.

Written By Cash Michaels

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