By Stacy M. Brown
New Journal and Guide publisher Brenda Andrews has never hesitated when responding to questions about the Black Press of America’s relevancy.
“Even with diverse news stories from various media platforms, the Black Press continues its original role as an advocate for the African American community, remarked Andrews, who serves as treasurer for the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).
“Recording racial history and giving meaning and value to what is news and how it is created and distributed as information and commentary from the Black perspective.”
This year marks the 194th anniversary of the Black Press of America and the 81st year of the NNPA, the trade association representing the 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America.
Andrews and her fellow publishers are preparing for the NNPA’s annual summer convention with the theme “Black Press Matters: Trusted Voice, Resilient Vitality, and Transformative Vision.”
The June 23 to June 26 event again will occur virtually this year. Registration is free, and those interested can sign-up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.
“The Black Press matters because it is a watchdog over how the stories about Black America are told,” Andrews relayed.
“It is an incubator for news that makes history and impacts our country and our democracy. Its members determine exactly what is news and newsworthy for the Black communities they serve. They decide what stories must be told and exactly how these stories are to be told as events that impact Black America.”
“It is an important and crucial role to decide how the current events of the day are to be remembered as history. It is not just important to have these stories and information recorded about the Black community. It is important who is telling the stories and how authentically those stories mirror the various nuances of Black Life in America. That is why the Black Press remains ‘The Trusted Voice’ of the people it covers. It has never abandoned its purpose for being, even in the face of economic challenges. It is both a ministry of public service and a business endeavor that must sustain itself to deliver news, information, and commentary.”
Like many Black newspaper publishers, Andrews maintained a foothold in the civil rights movement in the 20th century and today.
She and three other students integrated E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, and participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
A U.S. Army veteran, Andrews once served as associate editor of the Army’s Newswire Service at the Pentagon.
The New Journal and Guide has been a member of the Black Press since 1900, just 73 years after the founding of the Black Press in 1827.
“Our future is based on how successfully we navigate the changing ways people today view, receive and value news, especially with the emergence of fast, cheap and easily accessible digital platforms that distribute and exhibit ‘new,’” Andrews maintained.
While the digital media revolution, or the “Transformative Vision” from print dominance to digital is underway with great merits, Andrews cautioned that digital media and social networking platforms are not held accountable to “truth.”
Nor are they held to the same standards of quality journalism that have been required for print publications, Andrews said.
“Everybody who can put together a sentence can be a ‘citizen journalist’ and too often what is passed as news may be gossip, disinformation or misinformation without consequences,” Andrews warned.
“This competes with legitimate and professional media outlets and challenges them to remain vigilant, whether in print or electronic,” she said.
“As we move increasingly to a world of digital media communications, there is a special consideration for the Black Press to be made for the value of our enduring print publications. We have seen during the coronavirus pandemic that has necessitated the use of virtual communications for teaching, working, and shopping. It has been the Black community –rural and urban – that was most ill-prepared digitally to respond successfully. Inadequate internet broadband access in underserved urban and rural communities hamper these areas, largely Black and Brown, from participating in the digital world as successfully as better served areas.”