Equal Access Dominates Discussions During Black Newspaper Publishers ConferenceYussuf J. Simmonds, Editor, Los Angeles Sentinel
Richette L. Haywood, NNPA Contributor St. Thomas, Virgin Islands - Equal access. Those two words dominated discussions during the National Newspaper Publishers Association 2011 Mid-Winter Conference last week. Recognizing the need to grow its reach into federal and corporate arenas, the oldest and most influential Black newspaper association had executives/consultants from the top 25 Fortune 500 companies and industry insiders present the publishers with concrete lessons learned and best practices to expand its penetration into those markets during the country's economic recovery."We pride ourselves on being very on point. We focus on the influence that we have. And, we have a responsibility to enhance the quality of life for our Black brothers and sisters," NNPA Chair Danny J. Bakewell Sr. told the group. Collectively, the association needs to implement a strategy to gain equal access to advertising revenue._Based on an audit of the country's Black-owned-and-operated newspapers, Chuck Morrison, executive vice president and general manager of Uniworld, pointed out that the Black press had no advertising reciprocity. Specifically, the companies that consistently spent advertising dollars with the Black press were: AT&T, Comcast, Ford, General Motors, Home Depot and Macy's. He also said that of the top 25 companies with a significant market share in the African-American community, some firms did no advertising with the Black press during the review period. The 13 worst companies were: Allstate, Anheuser-Busch, Chrysler, Coke, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Miller Coors, Nissan, Pepsi, Sony, Toyota, U.S. government and Walt Disney. AT&T was responsible for gathering the consultants via Kevin Parker's Capital Consulting Group which included a panel on social media to help transform print media into multi- platform media with the ability to influence and attract consumers.Developing strategic approaches to position the Black press to gain equal access to federal and corporate advertising dollars were discussed during several workshops. Dennis Hunn, NNPA executive vice president of advertising and marketing stressed " ... we need to know where we are, define where we need to be, and, finally, develop a step-by-step plan to describe how we get there."
Marketing and special events were some of the strategies discussed to help the newspapers generate revenue.In addition, as a part of its overall strategy, the NNPA is developing an enhanced infrastructure to expedite execution of its internal processes.
The call for equal access did not end with its members but has been extended to the people of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the conference site. Bakewell told the publishers the association's support of the U.S. Virgin Islands' 30-year agreement with the owners of locally produced Cruzan Rum was the right thing to do.As part of the convention, Eric Peterson, vice president of Diversity, General Motors spoke about the Value of GM's partnership with the Black Press and John Singleton of Reynolds American, Inc spoke about the Importance of the Black Press. A panel - "Securing Black advertising dollars from corporate America and government" - was moderated by Isadore Hall, California State Assemblyman, Speaker Pro Tem, which included Jim Farmer, Vanessa Henry and Candida Mobley.The Black press will continue to support economic development in St. Thomas, specifically as it applies to the competition between St. Thomas and Puerto Rico to secure the manufacturing rights for Cruzan Rum. Nathan Simmonds, senior policy adviser for the U.S. Virgin Islands, told the publishers "the benefits of the rum agreement are not just paper deals." Economically, the agreement with the company will generate $50 million in revenue this year and is projected to triple within in the next six years. Applauding the publishers for not "believing the hype," Simmonds said, "Thank you for getting the facts and utilizing your power of the press to help us move forward."The Honorable John P. de Jongh, Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, welcomed Bakewell, the publishers and their guests and commended NNPA for the tremendous help in securing Diageo, the Virgin Islands' newest rum distillery in St. Croix that will produce rum for the Captain Morgan brand in the United States and will invest $5 million to build a visitor center at the distillery which is located at the Renaissance Park development on St. Croix.During the closing night salute dinner, award-winning actress and author Victoria Rowell thanked the membership for its coverage of the ongoing challenge faced by Blacks to gain equal access to jobs in the entertainment industry. She commended the association for its support that recently resulted in the hiring of the first African-American writer on the popular daytime soap opera "Young and the Restless," where she appeared for 17 years. "This is only step one," said Rowell, referring to the three-time-award-winning writer being hired on a six-week-trial basis for the show. "None of this could have been expedited had it not been for you. The Black press has always been good to us. We have a long way to go in Hollywood. But, none of this could have happened, the way it happened, had it not been for the Black press. We need access. And, this is what the fight is about."