A New Day at the NNPA; Congratulations to the newly elected NNPA board members

ABOVE: NNPA Executive Committee and Board Members At-Large: Jackie Hampton, Mississippi Link, At-Large; Karen Carter Richards, Houston Forward Times, 1st Vice Chair; Dorothy Leavell, Chicago Crusader, Chair; Janis Ware, The Atlanta Voice, Treasurer; Bernal Smith, the New Tri-State Defender, 2nd Vice Chair and Fran Farrer, The County News, At-Large

This past week, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) held its 2017 annual conference at the Gaylord Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland.

Not only was this a historic time, in that the Black Press of America celebrated 190 years of existence, it was also a time to celebrate the election of the newest officers of the NNPA; receive much-needed industry updates and information; and hold one of the much anticipated traditions at the NNPA Annual Convention – the Merit Awards ceremony.

On Friday, June 21st, the NNPA general body held its bi-annual election to determine who would lead the historic organization for the next two years.

In an extremely close and tough election, which included the reinstitution of absentee voting, the NNPA publishers elected veteran Chicago Crusader publisher and former NNPA Chair Dorothy Leavell to once again serve as NNPA Chair for the next two years. Leavell previously served as president of the NNPA from 1997 to 1999.

Leavell beat out incumbent NNPA Chair and Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, who was seeking reelection to finish out her second and final term.

“We have some strange times and we’ve been dealing with some insurmountable problems and our publishers are hurting so bad,” said Leavell. “We are suffering and with a new administration in the White House, it will take someone who isn’t afraid, someone who will raise a lot of hell.”

Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey L. Boney and CEO/Publisher Karen Carter Richards receive top honors at the NNPA Merit Awards sponsored by MillerCoors.

The Forward Times’ own Karen Carter Richards, who joined the executive board during an extremely difficult time, ran unopposed and was reelected as the 1st Vice Chair of the NNPA. Carter Richards is hoping to carry on the legacy of her parents, and continue the job of helping move the organization forward with her fellow publishers. She expressed thanks for the leadership and poise that Rolark Barnes provided while dealing with those tough challenges.

“Denise and the rest of the executive board should be applauded because of the commitment that was made to present ideas and help make decisions that have moved our organization forward in the right direction during some extremely challenging times,” said Carter Richards. “My parents always stressed the importance of the Black Press to me, which is why I am committed to ensuring the NNPA becomes the preeminent African American trade association serving as the voice of the Black community in this country.”

Janis Ware, publisher of the Atlanta Voice, ran unopposed and was reelected as Treasurer; while Bernal Smith, publisher of the New Tri-State Defender, won a close race and was elected 2nd Vice Chair of the NNPA; and Shannon Williams, the president of the Indianapolis Recorder, won an extremely close race and was reelected as Secretary.

The NNPA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Association, and MillerCoors, which sponsors the NNPA Merit Awards, honored the year-long work of the over 200 African American newspapers and NNPA member publications from across the country.

On Thursday, June 22nd, the NNPA Merit Award winners were announced at the annual competition, which acknowledges outstanding journalism in categories such as News, Commentary, Digital Excellence and other important categories surrounding the layout and design of each of the qualifying newspapers.

The Forward Times represented Houston well again at the awards ceremony, hauling in three (3) awards, including taking home first place honors for Best Special Edition, second place honors for Best Youth Writer, and being recognized for the third year in a row in the category of Digital Excellence for the Forward Times’ interactive and informative website (www.forwardtimes.com).

Other multiple winners included the Philadelphia Tribune (6), Washington Informer (4), Los Angeles Sentinel (4), Houston Defender (3), New Tri-State Defender (2), and the St. Louis American, who won ten (10) awards, including the NNPA General Excellence Award for the sixth consecutive year, which also marked the 13th time the St. Louis American has won the prize in the last 22 years.

The Mississippi Link’s Jackie Hampton won Publisher of the Year, which caught her by surprise.

To help bring the convention to a close, the NNPA honored Martin Luther King III with the 2017 Lifetime Legacy Award at the annual NNPA Legacy Awards Gala on Friday, June 23rd.

King, the oldest son of the iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., said that the tribute was greater than any other tribute that he has ever received, because the Black Press has meant a lot to his family, especially his father, as he fought for freedom, justice and equality.

“The NNPA is one of the most impactful institutions our community has and every week the newspapers of the Black Press reach at least 22 million people in our communities,” said King. “And every week the Black Press tackles issues that we deal with, that we cannot find in the mainstream newspapers.”

Kicking off the conference on Tuesday, June 20th, the NNPA held a National Black Town Hall meeting, co-moderated by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, and Dr. Elizabeth Primas, the program manager for the NNPA’s ESSA Media Campaign, to increase awareness about the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) in the Black community.

ESSA, which is President Obama’s landmark education law that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, is something the NNPA wants to expand on, and the NNPA received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to engage the Black community about ESSA.

The NNPA held its annual Publishers Exchange on Saturday, June 24th, where publishers shared ideas and best practices to help improve their publications and work collaboratively to accomplish the overall goals of the organization.

It was announced that the 2018 NNPA Annual Convention would be held in Norfolk, Virginia.

Congratulations to the newly elected NNPA board members, NNPA Foundation board members, NNPA Regional board members, 2017 Merit Award winners, committee chairs, NNPA staff, volunteers, sponsors, publishers and attendees for an extremely productive and successful 2017 NNPA Annual Conference.