COMMENTARY: NNPA celebrates a successful year at Mid-Winter Training Conference

By Roger Caldwell, North Dallas Gazette Special Contributor

“In 2019, the state of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) is strong and expanding as we continue to innovate and adjust to changing market realities and opportunities. The Black Press of America is viable, relevant, energetic and committed to excellence in journalism and service to our communities that depend and rely on our news products, advocacy, and voice,” proclaimed Dr. Benjamin Chavis, President/CEO of NNPA

Print media is under attack by digital and social media, seemingly with newspapers being replaced by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The major challenge for the Black Press is to bridge the gap with the younger Black Hip-Hop generation and the seasoned and older Black generation.

“Because of these times and new technology, we are gathered here in Orlando to discuss, dissect, and learn how we can continue our mission and the looming globalization of the Black Press. We pause here to thank our host publishers, members of NNPA, Board of Directors, staff sponsors, advertisers, and friends for their support as we begin another pivotal point in our existence,” Dorothy R. Leavell, Publisher of The Crusader News Group and Chairman of the NNPA Board of Directors said

Several key indicators spotlight the success of 2018 for NNPA. The organization increased the publication membership from 205 to 219 and increased advertising sales by 21 percent from $5,606,083 in 2017 to $6,794,105 in 2018. Also, NNPA Partners/Sponsors increased by 32 percent from $1,775,343, to $2,347,953 in 2018.

The Black Press remains resilient and powerful with NNPA members providing excellent reporting from a Black perspective for more than 75 years while celebrating 192 years of the Black Press in America.

On the front page of the Freedom’s Journal on March 16, 1827 in New York City, publishers and editors, Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm, asserted, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations in things that concern us dearly.”

The theme of the mid-winter conference in Orlando was, “Publishing Industry: Training, Innovation & The Global Expansion of the Black Press of America” speaks to the next chapter for NNPA and the Black Press. Under the tutelage and leadership of Dr. Chavis, NNPA is forecasting global expansion in the upcoming years.

Without a doubt, the NNPA Mid-Winter Training Conference was a success, featuring receptions, workshops, health, political, business, digital monetizing training sessions, global expansion, great food, and a fun award gala.

Newsmakers and guest speakers included The Honorable Andrew Gillum, the former Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, Attorney Benjamin L Crump, the renowned civil rights lawyer, and H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the African Union Ambassador to the United States. These were just a few of the conference headliners.

“Slavery was legal, but that did not make it right. Segregation was legal, but that did not make it right. We see them kill our children, our brothers, our sisters, and we see it on video with our own eyes, and they have all these legal terms, like grand jury proceedings, and they tell us there was no violation of policy, and we ask what video was they looking at,” stated Attorney Benjamin Crump.

The publishers and NNPA staff enjoyed the opportunity to network and share knowledge over four days. The time was especially invigorated with the global perspective from the presentation of Ambassador Arikana Chihomboori-Quao.

“In order for Africa to become a heavy-weight it must speak with one voice, one heart, one mind, and one Africa,” shared Ambassador Chihomboori-Quao.

The highlight of the conference was the Lifetime Achievement Award Gala, with the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2019 to Rosetta Miller-Perry, the Tennessee Tribune publisher and civil rights activist. At eighty-five years young she is still working and engaged. The dinner with jumbo shrimp was excellent. The entertainment and music were provided by the electrifying Howard Hewitt.

With the tremendous success of the conference, the NNPA must work to solve the big elephant in the room, and that is, “How do the papers and publishers generate more income with a declining print model?” According to the Pew Research Center, print advertising still pays the bills, but print ad revenues have fallen from $44.3 billion in 2003 to just $16.4 billion in 2014.

The NNPA will continue to be a voice in America, where there is no justice, racism, voter suppression, and no truth. As an Orlando resident and NNPA contributor, it was an honor to meet the publishers and speak with Dr. Benjamin Chavis, NNPA President/CEO, Board Chairman Dorothy Leavell, and the NNPA Headquarters Staff.

With a renewed spirit after the conference, the NNPA is relevant and making a difference in America and the Black community for 75 years.

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