MEDIA: AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEDIA - Media Roundup. Opportunities aboundfor reaching black media outlets

African-Americans have stronger media representation than ever

before, from print to broadcast. David Ward looks at who's reporting

what and where in all things African-American.

Although not expanding as quickly as the Latino press, African-American

media outlets are on a definite upswing, and as usual, money plays a big

part. In the Black notes that this minority generates $400

billion in combined household income. "You've got this huge growth in

magazines, and that's because African-Americans are emerging as an

economic force," explains Lon Walls, president and CEO of Washington,

DC-based Walls Communications.

A quick look at your local newsstand shows the increased presence of

African-American outlets. Long-standing publications such as Jet, Ebony,

and Essence have been joined by Savoy, Upscale, Heart & Soul, and


On the business-magazine side, The Network Journal, long-standing

category leader Black Enterprise, and others all target professionals

and small-business owners.

That doesn't include the huge expansion of hip-hop music, clothing, and

even language into the mainstream culture, since magazines such as Vibe,

XX Large, Blunt, and The Source target a broad general-interest

audience, even if much of the content focuses on African-American

entertainment figures and issues.

All these developments are good news for the growing ranks of

African-American journalists, since opportunities abound in both the

mainstream and the black media.

Among the most respected in the mainstream press are Bob Herbert of The

New York Times, CBS Early Show anchor Bryant Gumbel, CNNSI's Sonja

Steptoe, and Today show weatherman and reporter Al Roker. In the

African-American press, they include Black Enterprise senior editor

Monique Brown, BET anchors Ed Gordon and Cheryl Martin, Savoy

editor-in-chief Roy Johnson, and In the Black editor Nancy Clark.

The long-time standard bearers of African-American news, however, are

the community print outlets, such as New York's Amsterdam News, the

Washington, DC-based The Afro-American, the Atlanta Tribune, and the Los

Angeles Sentinel.

The press as advocates

Mark Caffee, managing director of Hill & Knowlton's diversity practice,

says that small-circulation outlets primarily serve an advocacy role,

focusing on local news and issues that wouldn't necessarily get the same

depth of coverage in the local mainstream press. H&K has worked with

state and government agencies on a number of social marketing campaigns

targeting community papers with information on low- or no-cost health

insurance, anti-tobacco programs, and AIDS prevention. While noting

these outlets are receptive to PR pitches, Caffee adds, "These

publications have few resources and very little staff, so you've got to

provide a lot of the information and background for them." Caffee also

says that national campaigns targeting African-American outlets still

have to be executed on a market-by-market basis.

These community newspapers can have a strong impact on the mainstream

press, however. A recent column in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

alleging racial insensitivity resulted in the resignation of one of the

radio announcers for the Minnesota Vikings football team. "They have

stories that take about two or three weeks before they're picked up by

the mainstream press," says Walls. "The Washington Post has increased

its coverage of the African-American community, and monitors what's in

these black papers. A lot of good reporters from The Afro-American are

now reporters for the Post," Walls adds.

Limited internet presence

Mike Paul, president of Mike Paul Associates, believes one thing

hampering many of these older papers is the lack of an internet

presence. "There are a lot of black newspapers, including the Amsterdam

News, that aren't online yet, and the technology is holding them back,"

he says. "Sometimes you have to make an investment in technology so you

can get further ad growth."

That may be changing. Earlier this year, the National Newspaper

Publishers Association (NNPA), backed by grants from UPS, AT&T, and

others, began an initiative to have all 200 of its African-American

newspaper members online by 2003. The group also runs the NNPA newswire

servicing black community newspapers and the news


Walls points out, too, that these newspapers are beginning to tweak

their editorial mix to appeal to a broader age group. Washington DC, for

example, has six different African-American weekly newspapers, Walls

says, adding, "They have geared some of their content for the younger

audience, with more stories about lifestyle and entertainment."


On the broadcast front, BET is by far the largest African-American owned

and oriented network. While including a healthy dose of entertainment

news, the cable network has several general news-oriented shows,

including BET News, Lead Story, Journeys in Black, Inside Studio 2, and

BET Tonight.

BET communications specialist Sonja Springfield says BET's acquisition

by Viacom has increased its news resources, adding "With BET News in

particular, we're going to work together with CBS and use some of their

resources, but we still have editorial control of everything in our

programming." The joint efforts will include shifting of production of

some programs, including BET News and BET Tonight with Ed Gordon to New


African-American news has also moved aggressively online, and not just

through, a joint operation between BET Holdings, Microsoft, News

Corp, USA Networks, and Liberty Digital that launched last year. There

is also the business entrepreneur-focused, as well as

While there is still some suspicion of overt attempts to pander to the

African-American community, Kim Hunter, CEO of Lagrant Communications,

says traditional corporate America can make PR inroads into the black

press, citing her campaign on behalf of Hilton Hotels. Fueled by a study

that found the hotel chain as one of the best places for

African-Americans to work, Hunter was able to successfully pitch the

story to trade outlets such as Black Meetings & Tourism and community

newspapers like The Afro-American, Los Angeles Sentinel, Atlanta

Tribune, and Turning Point magazine.


Newspapers: Amsterdam News; Atlanta Tribune; Los Angeles Sentinel; The

Afro-American (Washington, DC); Chicago Defender; Baltimore Times;

Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Magazines: Jet; Ebony; Savoy; Essence;

Upscale; Black Enterprise; In the Black; Honey; Heart & Soul

Trade publications: Black Meetings & Tourism

TV & Radio: BET; urban-oriented radio outlets like KKBT (The Beat) in



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