New Challenges for New Frontiersman

In the early days of black newspapers, it was a moral imperatvie to crusade for the underrepresented, victimized Black community. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the purpose of the paper was to educate Blacks of the reunited United States government and its effect on their lives. This task was extremely difficult considering the high illiteracy rate of the former slaves. During the race riots of the early 1930s, the black newspapers united to support the people as they fought in the streets, demanding equality of all forms in this country. Thirty years later, Blacks involved in the Civil Rights Movement were again backed by the black press. It was their responsibility to inform the entire country of the people's struggle for freedom from segregation. Today, the fight for universal equality continues. The emergence of the World Wide Web has made it possible for black newspapers to reach Black people from around the globe. But what challenges confront the papers as they begin to establish their presence in the online world? Recent correspondence with the editors of print and online Black newspapers has made apparent the advantages and disadvantages of using the World Wide Web to disseminate their information.

We win some: Advantages of Black Newspapers Online

Black newspapers seek to post sites on the Web for reasons similar to that of small, mainstream papers. In order to keep up with the major papers, the smaller papers must make technological leaps and bounds. Circulation for black newspapers tends to be rather limited and is often controlled. By placing their information on the WWW, editors believe it is possible to increase the number of individuals receiving their messages. Whether they read the news posted or susbscribe to the print version, the number of Black readers will grow tremendously. To owners and editors of black press newspapers, this is almost as important as making a profit.

Additionally, the cost of circulation will decrease. "It will be faster, cheaper, and more efficient than print in future years"(Wright, 1999). Since black newspapers constantly function on tight budgets, the money can be re-routed so as to invoke changes in other places, such as staff and distribution. These papers can continue to uphold their founding principles in a new medium, as they spend more time and money finding news of significance for Black people. "Black newspapers that cease to advocates for the poor, women, minorities, and the oppressed lose their reason for existence" (Wright, 1999).

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We lose some: Disadvantages of Black Newspapers on the Web

A small number of Black newspapers are uncomfortable with the thought of placing their information on the Web. Primarily, money may not be made as easily as it is now. "The Black media, as the white media, sell/rents space. This is our 'product.' Giving or allowing free, unpaid access makes no economic gain" (Love, 1999). A study of the early African-American newspapers showed that even their primary motivation was "not to uplift, but profit." ( Without the revenue normally generated through advertising, some papers may not survive too far into the 21st century.

Also, black newspapers will only be able to reach the younger members of Black society. The emerging technology is proving to be outside of the financial reach of those that are older and of lower socioeconomic status. These individuals will be forced to maintain access to the news through print subscriptions. Time and the falling cost of computers may take care of this problem, but there are no guarantees.

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A Timeline of the Black Press
Definition of the Black Press
Old Soldiers, New Territory: Afro-Americ@
Old Soldiers, New Territory: The Indianapolis Recorder
New Challenges for New Frontiersman
Black Press Gallery