Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NAACP Snubs Black Media

This year the NAACP made a terrible blunder, which could ultimately cost them the support of the black community, which many may argue was already the case. The NAACP Awards Show came and went without so much as one advertisement in any black newspaper in the country. This "grave mistake" as described by NAACP President Ben Jealous, has the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), an organization of more than 200 black owned newspapers, in a serious uproar. Danny Bakewell, Chairman of the organization had this to say:

“If the NAACP desires to advertise with the white press, they need to understand and experience the repercussions of going outside of their “house” (The Black Press). The NAACP needs to know that by ignoring the Black Press they are ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face,’” Bakewell said in a March 7 letter to NNPA publishers, obtained by the Trice Edney News Wire. “We have marched side by side with them and been their voice in the African American community. It is truly disheartening to be on the battlefield with someone and not be able to share in the spoils.”

So apparently the problem was that the advertising agency whom the NAACP hired to run the ad campaign was ultimately to blame for the ads only appearing in white, mainstream newspapers, yet this is the same agency who is hired every year by the NAACP for this very job. Strange how the ball was randomly dropped and labeled as inadvertent. Mr. Jealous, after a brief silence, finally released a statement.

“The advertising company originally conceived the guide and presented it as a fundraiser to the NAACP. It is solely responsible for selling the ads and handling the distribution. It pays the NAACP a licensing royalty which is used to support our ongoing diversity efforts in Hollywood,” Jealous states. “Accordingly, I requested and received assurance from the advertising company that their distribution plan included Black community newspapers. However, the advertising company has failed to follow through. This year, when the guides came out, they did not show up in any Black community newspapers.”

He concludes, “The NAACP does not condone the agency’s decision to exclude Black community newspapers. It is contrary to our explicit instruction, and we were not aware of the agency’s decision until after the guides hit the papers,” he said. “Nonetheless, it was made for a publication that bears our name, and as CEO I take ultimate responsibility for it. For that reason, I have apologized to the NNPA and promised their leadership this will not happen again.”

What struck me about this comment was that Mr. Jealous referred to the mistake as "the agency's decision," which essentially means that while this may have been accident on the part of the NAACP, it was a conscious decision on the part of the ad agency, whose name Mr. Jealous failed to mention.

The NNPA has not been the only organization to speak on the topic:

Robert W. Bogle, publisher of the Philadelphia Tribune, said in a March 3 Tribune story reprinted by Target Market News: “In (Thursday’s) Philadelphia Daily News, the 42nd NAACP Awards Magazine was inserted and not one copy was inserted in the Philadelphia Tribune, America’s oldest and America’s largest daily newspaper serving the African-American community.”

He continued, “This action is an insult to the men and women who work at the Philadelphia Tribune and should be an insult to Black Americans in this country. The very right of full inclusion and participation of African Americans has been denied by the organization that purports that African Americans should be fairly included in all aspects of American life.”

New York Beacon Publisher Walter Smith, president of the 17-member Northeast Publishers Association, wrote in an editorial, “We credit our leaders of the NAACP with good sound judgment and common sense at least. What were they thinking when this decision was made? Who were they trying to attract, and or who were they trying to impress?”

For years there has been serious debate around the relevance of the NAACP and it's ability to connect to the modern generation of Black folks whose plight is much different than when the organization was first started and a much different need existed. Obviously a mishap, such as ignoring black media as a whole, for your annual television program will not help.

Jealous added that the distribution will be put out for bids next year with assurance that Black newspapers will be included.

“We have also let the agency know that we will not tolerate their abuse of the trust the NAACP has placed in them, nor that which Black community newspapers place in the NAACP,” Jealous wrote. “If this company wants to do business with the NAACP again, they will need to make things right with Black community newspapers in the markets where the guide was distributed, and convince us they are capable of keeping their word.”

To add insult to injury the incident occurred during the 184th anniversary of the black press.
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