By Alexis Taylor
AFRO Managing Editor
The National Newspaper Publishers Association, the trade association which represents more than 240 Black publications across the nation, held their Mid-Winter Training Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Jan. 24 to Jan. 27.
Publishers, editors, writers and businessmen and women from around the country gathered under the theme of empowering the “Black Press, the Black vote and Black America.” Bobby R. Henry Sr., NNPA chairman, spoke on the significance of choosing such an embattled state to hold the association’s conference.
“Here in Florida, you understand what Florida has become to our country– it’s really an eye sore,” said Henry. “I had to wrestle that.”
Henry said that he ultimately decided to hold the conference in Florida because of the fact that members of the Black Press are indeed “making headway and addressing issues and building coalitions that work– not just in word, but in deed also.”
On the first day of the conference, board meetings were held to address NNPA business matters and funding. Later in the day, attendees were chauffeured to the African American Research Library and Cultural Center for a national town hall meeting, titled “Affirming the Relationship Between Blacks and Jews in America.
“The Black Press is 197 years . When Russworm and Cornish first published Freedom’s Journal in 1827, some of their financing to start the first Black newspaper came from the Jewish community of New York. We’ve been involved with the Jewish community for 197 years– particularly during the Civil Rights Movement,” Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. told the AFRO. “We planned this way before Oct. 7, back in August, because we knew that Broward County has a very large Jewish population and a large Black population. When we go to a local community and have our national events, we want to have interaction with the community.”
On the second day of the gathering, publishers were able to attend sessions such as “Revenue Generating Strategies in the Publishing Digital Age” and “Harnessing the Power of the Community, the Black Press and Inclusive Corporate Leadership.” Both were topics of discussion throughout the length of the conference, along with how to reach voters in an election year. Attendees had an opportunity to interface with members of the Google News Initiative team and learn how to better understand their audience..
Day two of the conference also included time for recipients of the PGA Tours Scholarship, Jasmine Hall of Bethune Cookman University and Victoria Gisel Montanet, of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, to receive recognition. In addition, the Black Wall Street Ticker was introduced by Dr. Charles Walker, founder and CEO of FOTM Global.
In the evening, members of the Black Press were hosted at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center (HDEC). During their visit, they heard from two Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, and learned how genocide is possible anywhere stereotypes, hate and bigotry go unchecked.
The third day of the meeting featured important panel discussions on how to use Google analytics to further engage audiences and how to incorporate technology and expand media coverage with digital storytelling. The evening offered those in attendance an opportunity to celebrate with John and Carol Zippert, NNPA Publisher Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.
The Zipperts have been publishers of the Green County Democrat Newspaper in Alabama since 1985, when they put the former owners, who used the pages to promote White supremacy, out of business. Together, with the help of the local residents, the two turned a publication previously known to promote racist views into a publication that caters to the Black community–which makes up 85 percent of the county population.
Day after day, night after night, attendees of the NNPA Mid-Winter Training Conference were given opportunities to learn, grow and appreciate the hard work done by Black media professionals. The conference concluded on Jan. 27 with a breakfast, coupled with a think tank session.
Against the backdrop of sunny Florida, publishers were able to pick up new strategies to engage audiences and make change, editors were given tips to improve their local newsroom and all in attendance took home a new fervor for advancing the mission of the Black Press.