By: Brian Morrison

Last week I had the awesome opportunity to attend the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) conference in Nashville, TN. The NNPA (also known as the Black Press of America) is a 69 year old federation of more than 200 black community newspapers from across the country.  The conference was held at the Hutton Hotel on Nashville’s West End—a beautiful facility with out-of-this-world service: we were treated like royalty by the hotel staff. Gold star for the NNPA on hotel choice!

The conference was packed with informative, engaging workshops and numerous opportunities to network with publishers and clients.  The workshops covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the financial challenges faced by Historically Black Colleges and Universities to HIV/AIDS awareness, and offered training on highly coveted skills like sponsorship engagement and familiarity with the new digital landscape.  The NNPA brought in a wealth of esteemed panelists and guest speakers, among them: Kevin Johnson (former NBA player and Mayor of Sacramento); Sheryl Lee Ralph (actress and activist) and Maria Cristina Rios (National Director of Multicultural Marketing at Macy’s).

My key takeaways from the conference:

  • The Black Publishers of America are a wonderfully dedicated group of individuals who are here to ensure that the stories largely ignored by mainstream media are heard; it isn’t business that drives their passions—the publishers of the NNPA feel a deeply-rooted duty to the African American community.
  • I had wonderful conversations with multiple publications about the digital media landscape and the value of the printed word and, in my humble opinion, the black press needs to fully embrace the technological tidal wave that is Digital Media.
    •  I am nearly 40 years old and was raised on print, but the generation behind me wouldn’t know a Newspaper from a VHS tape.  This is the generation that the new black press needs to target in order to maintain its relevance.  I met some publishers that absolutely get it and some who are still fighting the technological wave.  I would encourage every single black publisher to jump on the digital and social media bandwagon as quickly as possible, because if the Millennials of the world are beginning to already think that email is passé (yes I said email!), imagine what they think about print.  Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) this is the generation that will keep the black press alive for the next 20 years.

All in all (as a fan of AA media), I am excited to see how the black press meets the challenge of the new Millennial reader.  The black press met the challenge of providing a voice for African Americans when the entire country saw no need for us to have a voice; because of this, I would imagine that meeting this new challenge, although difficult (like any serious challenge) will be attainable.

Thanks to the NNPA for a great week!