As the story goes, Fort Lauderdale business pioneer Levi Henry was misquoted by one of the daily newspapers and the management refused to recant the comment, and there was no Black-owned newspaper for him to go to in Broward County to hear him out. So, he started one. The Westside Gazette was founded in 1971 with the support of some other community civic-minded people who were writers and contributors and with his wife Yvonne by his side in the business.
Eventually, their children would take on positions at the paper and carry the legacy to the next level, growing it from a tabloid-sized paper to a broadsheet, and expanding it into the high-profile media voice of the region that it has become today.
“The focus of the Black Press has always been to be an advocate for Black America and ‘to plead our own cause,’ and we will continue to educate as well as keep the history and prominence of Black Americans in the forefront of this country and the world,” said current publisher Bobby R. Henry, Sr. “What has changed is the technology.”
How can the Black Press capitalize on new innovations and sustain itself through ever-changing times? That’s the theme of the Mid-Winter Training Conference of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) which returns to Greater Fort Lauderdale on January 23-25, 2020.
Henry is part of the planning committee that includes publishers of the award-winning Houston Forward Times and the Cincinnati Herald and NNPA CEO and President Dr. Benjamin Chavez.
The conference is expected to draw a large showing of publishers of the 200 Black newspapers in the U.S. along with local, state, and some national political figures against the backdrop of a hotly-contested 2020 national political campaign season and the 2020 U.S. Census outreach.
In workshops, publishers responsible for coverage of issues of concern to communities of color will explore ways to upgrade and benefit from technology tools, partnership initiatives with the new Black News Channel (BNC) TV Network, and new approaches to economic opportunities and challenges facing the Black Press today.
Consider it a honing of skills. “As the NNPA, we are mindful of the technological advances and our publications across this country are well-equipped to address those issues in all our media platforms which consist of social media outlets as well as a wire service that surpasses in some instances the other wire services,” Henry pointed out. “Nobody can do it like the Black Press when it comes to covering and reporting on us.”
The Westside Gazette has been doing it for almost half a century. The third generation is working there now and the paper has also created a platform for young aspiring journalists to publish their work and develop professional skills.
Henry sees it as one way of ensuring the sustainability of the Black Press in the long run.
“We are hopeful that this and other efforts will create a much-needed pipeline and a pool of qualified journalists, photojournalists, bloggers, and Black-owned media sources, and all that it takes to keep the Black Press alive and valued.”