A number of the old members of the black press are still in existence. Newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender, the Norfolk Journal and Guide and the Miama Times continue to crusade against the cruel injustices of the world. Only two of these early papers, however, have made the jump from print publication to online publication: the Afro-American and the Indianapolis Recorder. Each paper seeks to fulfill the age-old black press principle of informing as they use a new medium.
"The responsibility of the Black newspaper is to guide, counsel, educate, help people in trouble and through its column suggest solutions to problems and means of correcting injustices" (Pride and Wilson, 1997). Although the following quote was spoken by his granddaughter, the publishing principles of Afro-American founder, John S. Murphy Sr., lived in the words. The former slave and whitewasher formed the newspaper in 1892. It was the result of a merger of Murphy's Sunday School Helper and two other church publications. Almost sixty years following this union, the Afro had grown from a one-page church weekly to "the most widely circulated black paper along the coastal Atlantic" (http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bios/afroamerican.html, 1999). As many as 13 editions were circulated across the country. The main headquarters are located in Baltimore, with regional papers found in Newark, Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington, D.C.
Over the past hundred and seven years, the Afro has been an advocate for the Black community. Some of its successes include:
Today, the Afro has taken its rich history and moved into online publication. The purpose of Afro-Americ@, the online version of the paper, is rather simple: to keep the members of the Black community informed. This goal has not changed since print publication began in 1892. With the incorporation of a new medium, however,Afro-Americ@ provides more than daily doses of top stories, sports and classified ads. It can now provide an international audience of Black people with historical and cultural information they may not have previously had access to. Afro-Americ@ wants Black people everywhere feel as if no information is unavailble to them.
It appears that the site was designed to grasp the attention of those interested in Black news, history and culture. The homepage is alive with a steady rotation of photographs in the center of the page. Culture, Information, History and Kids Zone are correlated with a barrage of pictures as they represent different aspects of Afro-Americ@'s content. The site is an avenue to a small virtual world of African-Americans. Through "History," you can find a short list of important events covered by the paper over the years, from the skin whitening and hair straightening campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s to the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party. "Culture" appropriately leads you to the rich and diverse aspects of Black culture. With a click of the mouse, a person can reach Mother Africa, peruse the artistic expression of up-and-coming Black artists or locate fellow Black Greeks.
In the "Kids Zone," children can begin their journey through Black culture as they learn of Africa and its myths and fables on their level of understanding. The bright colors and attractive images make learning fun. If a person only wants basic "Information" found in the 13 print versions, then they only have to click on this link. Here one will find all facets of a newspaper with a few extra areas.
The design of Afro-Americ@ is attractive in its simplicity. The main page is merely a conduit to a storehouse of useful information, therefore, it does not waste much time with its easy navigation. Throughout the site, the use of bright colors and images is extremely appealing as you move from one topic to another. It definitely captures the reader's attention. The overwhelming amount of white space, however, is slightly disheartening. Though it keeps a user focused on the information in the center, it does waste the rest of the page. Overall, however, Afro-Americ@ presents a beautiful site rich in the color of its people and the strength of its content.
Interactivity is available on several levels in Afro-Americ@. Despite the lack of a chat capability, one can post responses to a question of the day on the Community Discussions message board. Here one can also read what other brothas and sistas across the world have to say. To get in touch with members of the paper's staff is very easy. From the Feedback link, one can have access to the e-mail of some very important people, including the editor. A person is not limited to posing questions to the Webmaster only. Children can also give feedback through the Kids Zone site to critique the page's contents. The form is found in the Information section. Afro-Americ@ does not have a customizable aspect, however, you can register to receive e-mail messages concerning important changes at the online paper. The news, though, can not be modified or localized for the reader.
The level of advertising in Afro-Americ@ is very limited. This is not surprising, though. Historically, the print version has been very choosy about its sources of revenue.
"Other Black papers accepted political funds and eventually disappeared, but Murphy's paper refused to do so and turned out to be one of the few Negro weeklies to survive far into the 20th century. Murhpy likewise eschewed financial support from churches and social or fraternal organizations. Because of a bad experience with liquor during his army days, he was adamant about refusing advertising associated with alcoholic beverages and even turned down a $1500 full-page advertising spread from the Saloon League."(Pride and Wilson, 1997)
The decision to remain picky in deciding on advertising has made its way into Afro-Americ@. The few "chosen" ads are useful to the Black community as it helps them make important life choices, such as purchasing a car.