I was asked to chair the Editorial Board of the San Antonio Observer and I initially said no because I don’t live on the East Side of San Antonio, and people have been critical of the paper’s coverage of news. But I have a change of decision because Black newspapers are the only outlets that focus on who we are. I also believe we have to have a response mechanism in place to combat journalism that degrades our leaders and places their cultural biases in their reporting of who we are as Black people.
This change comes about because we need to collectively support Black Newspapers – it is our only lifeline to our news. Positive coverage to our community is currently limited to entertainment and sports in the mainstream news.
I agreed to chair the editorial board with the intention of growing the newspaper so that it has a full distribution throughout San Antonio. Right now the reach of the current distribution model supports up to 175,000 citizens. But why isn’t it the full 1.7 Million people of our city? We understand that Blacks in San Antonio are North, East, South and West. We are not land locked into a certain region nor should we not cover and include all Black people in our city’s news. Secondly, the coverage of the online website, and social media has a worldwide reach and the internet makes the content available everywhere. Third, the major news companies have their own lens of how they view us, and everything that we do. The Black News is designed to record the events which is our history.
Let’s also understand that Black newspapers are read by non-Black people. How else are they going to know what is happening, opinions and how we see the world. Interestingly, during the political campaign season, both the SA Express News and the SA Current used the SA Observer’s coverage of stories to re-amplify to their audience. This is a good thing as we note that our stories should be shared.
Famous actor James Earl Jones with Publisher, Mr. Charles "Chuck" Stewart
Historically, we are storytellers. Most African history has been passed on by word of mouth. But telling the news is just as important. I have joined to support Black Newspapers not as a new thing but really a thing of old. I had the privilege to work for Mr. Charles “Chuck” Stewart who published the Hudson Valley Black Press in upstate New York. As a teenager in high school, I asked Mr. Stewart if I could be a writer for his paper. He said yes, and I was a part of a Black business that the community was proud of, and secondly, he became a lifelong mentor who helped me to reach where I am today. I also saw how his family worked the business with him. This year, Mr. Stewart passed away. He is the first African American that I ever knew that had invitations to the White House to see the President. As a teenager, next to my Father, this newspaper publisher was larger than life. Today, his family inherited a business that will never lose value.
Black newspapers need your support. The SA Observer family gave me an opportunity to support the Black business community, project positive stories of our young children and expand the reach so that we can all benefit. I couldn’t refuse. The opportunity is to take this to the next level.
I realize that some of my dear friends have been featured in a not very positive light. Specifically, I cannot do anything about the past, but what I can say is our editorial board process will be a filter to ensure no one is singled out inappropriately.
In mind, I believe you should know who should advertise? Everyone. Who should write? People who have a desire to tell our communities story. What stories are important? Those that reflect the African American contribution – positive or negative. Can our young people volunteer? Absolutely – my first article was published when I was 13. The professional experience helped to shape me.
Again, I can’t change the past but this is our only real paper with our message since the 1930s.
I have heard of the SA Observer being compared to Breitbart. I have seen Black people write to diminish their only verified circulated newspaper as being “Fake News” and in my opinion, is not a good thing. We will make a goal to cover the stories with accuracy and precision.
Who should take an interest in the future of this newspaper? All San Antonio Black businesses - Black nonprofits (to include our churches and mosque) - Black families – Black politicians. Why? Because when your own community is clueless to who is a Black plumber, or Black electrician, or Black family doctor or accessible to Black people who can help, there is no spending of your hard-earned dollar within our community. Therefore, we are collectively “poor people” as Dr. King called us in his lifetime.
Who else should financially support this newspaper? This newspaper is provided to the community based on paid advertising. The newspaper solicits from every business type that wants your money. The newspaper has a very long history providing FREE advertisements to nonprofits that are business impacting the community.
But what is important to remember about why this paper exist, mainly because Black people and families are not buying the mainstream newspapers because of the wealth gap. Why buy an expensive newspaper when you can buy a gallon of milk? The news that this newspaper provides some take it for granted because they are connected and have the financial means. Access to news should be free BUT there is a cost to everything. Please understand that when this newspaper questions why do publicly funded entities do not feel compelled to advertise in this newspaper and spend millions of dollars in the SA Express News that you do not buy, there is a blind spot created by their actions. Some of you may not agree with this premise, but if the major utilities have changes in services within our city – CPS Energy, SAWS, VIA Transit as examples, you should not have to buy a paper to see what the changes are. The tax payer contributions we all make is why you can ask these entities to share their message with us. Many executives who I speak with from the public entities have an assumption that minority newspapers are willing to give up space for their message to be published for free. At the same time, these financially giant companies, like University Health Systems, paid $300,000 for a marketing/advertising campaign with the Express News. In other words, you do not see their employment opportunities, or RFP’s for Business services unless you purchase the mainstream paper. In other words, to keep the wheels on the bus, there has to be some money to keep the bus running. It is our position that all tax payer public service agencies need to provide the same type of financial support to the minority newspapers as they do with the mainstream newspaper. It is our money we are asking them to redirect to informing our community.
I have asked the SA Observer to put together a forum to meet with the Black business and nonprofit community of San Antonio to discuss a new marketing campaign that will support their growth. With the growth, we can expand and grow. Fortunately, since the early 1930’s the community has read the San Antonio Register, the SA Observer, El Starous and more. In terms of lineage, this newspaper has one of the oldest Black businesses that has survived generations. It was the very first business to pay and help found the San Antonio Negro Chamber of Commerce – now the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce. The necessity that was there in 1936, is the same that we have in 2017.
With that I welcome you to join our team – send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.