By Elinor Tatum • LMA Guest Contributor
Publisher & Editor in Chief, New York Amsterdam News
“BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER!”
All of a sudden, Black lives matter. But to the Black press, Black lives have always mattered. Since the founding of the Black press, the newspapers that comprise it have chronicled the lives of Black people in this country. Births, deaths, graduations, marriages, milestones, you name it, the Black press has covered it, from right inside the community.
The Fund for Black Journalism is so much more than just about a story. It is about legacies. It is about history. It is about the future of the Black Press, the ability to tell our own stories for our communities, and by our communities.
Black newspapers are businesses. Just like everything else in this day and age we have been discriminated against because of race. Advertisers refused to advertise in the “Colored” papers. We were at a disadvantage from the word go. But we persevered because our communities needed the information, and there was no one else giving us what we needed.
While today I publish and own one of the most well-known Black newspapers in the country, the New York Amsterdam News, my roots are much simpler. My grandfather, Eugene Tatum, had a small country newspaper down in Henderson County, N.C. The Henderson Tribune went to press whenever it had enough ads. My father started working for the paper at age 9, as the managing editor (he was able to read and write so it might have been true). My father always reminisced about how proud he was of his dad because his father had an office. It was a newspaper office where people came to tell their stories. And back in the 1930’s, that was a big deal.
With COVID-19, newspapers were hit hard; Black newspapers, even harder. There is an old saying: “When America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.” Well, the coronavirus is worse than any pneumonia we have ever seen — save for that of the pandemic of racism in America. There are so many stories that need to be covered and they need to be covered by us and by our communities. That’s a task that is harder and harder when the money is just not there to hire the staff and do the reporting we want to do.
The newspapers and media companies that will be part of this fund, for the most part, are still family-owned. These families are dedicated to getting the truth out to their communities. They want what is best for their communities, best for their constituents. They want to get the truth out. Without them so much would be left unsaid. Please help us make sure that these stories do not remain in the shadows. For centuries, as many of you know, we have pleaded our own cause, and that is a duty and obligation we want to continue. Yes, BLACK LIVES MATTER and we are here to make that matter even more.
The New York Amsterdam News is one of the country’s oldest (111 years), continuously published African American newspapers, and the leading voice of the black community in the New York region. As a weekly (Thursday) legacy newspaper, the Amsterdam News enjoys a loyal following of more than 98,000 print readers weekly. Its digital offering, amsterdamnews.com, currently enjoys 100,000 unique visitors per week, and more than 444,000 page views per month, and growing.