ABOVE: Karen Carter Richards, Forward Times CEO/Publisher and NNPA Chairman of the Board, presents NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin Chavis with Lifetime Achievement Award, which is the organization’s highest accolade
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association for more than 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies, held its 2023 midwinter training conference in Puerto Rico.
By the end of the four-day event, publishers, partners, sponsors, members, guests, and anyone else who visited the San Juan Marriott Beach Resort and Stellaris Casino gained a better appreciation of the power of the Black Press of America.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of the NNPA, received the organization’s highest accolade while colleagues, family, and friends celebrated his birthday.
With “Digital Innovation Training and Engagement” as the conference’s theme, NNPA Executive Administrator Claudette Perry and conference planners did not disappoint.
The NNPA began by introducing everyone to its new app, which facilitated registration, provided information and instructions to each session.
Publishers left the Island of Enchantment with a better understanding of the importance of their digital products and how to monetize both print and online publications.
Kate Cox, adjunct professor at the Poynter Institute in Tampa, Florida, conducted an enlightening conversation on overcoming obstacles to produce sustainable corporate outcomes through digital transformation.
Cox advised publishers on how to engage in a presentation that was developed expressly for NNPA members to generate revenue streams because of digital transformation.
In a separate workshop, Cox assisted publishers in implementing the suggested evaluations of their current audiences, staffing, and consultants to maximize potential for raising digital revenue and expanding their total market influence.
Later, NNPA Digital Manager Norman Rich and Rolling Out COO Randy Fling discussed the digital revenue success approaches adopted by certain members, including Rolling Out.
“Digital ads are an important part of digital, but there are many other benefits,” Fling advised publishers. “It can help your business,” he said.
“Do not unsell yourself,” Rich pleaded to publishers.
Ashley Edwards, vNews Lab’s US Partnerships Manager, and Tina Xiao, Google News Initiative’s global program manager, presented publishers with three best practices for driving traffic to their websites.
They also instructed journalists on how to use Google tools to find, verify, and tell stories tailored to their audiences.
In addition, the pair discussed the importance of GNP resources for publishers to grow and sustain their digital businesses.
Chavis spoke with Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) about the importance of Black lives and the Black press in a pre-recorded conversation.
He also had a live fireside chat with Dorothy Tucker, President of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), about strengthening the bond between the two organizations.
The Illinois proprietors of The Times Weekly, Jayme and Dwight Casimere, conducted a session entitled “The Business of Wine and How it Became a Digital Advertising Opportunity.”
A workshop on the opinions and recommendations of Generation Z and Millennials regarding the future economic sustainability of the Black Press was a highlight of the conference.
Discussion was led by Chelsea Lenora White of the Houston Forward Times, Jarren Small, founder of Reading with a Rapper, Micha Green, managing editor of the Washington Informer, and Lafayette Barnes, publisher of The Bridge.
The quartet discussed and illustrated how publishers may generate new revenue streams as a result of the intersection and engagement of adolescents with their digital and print media.
Chavis, the recipient of the 2023 NNPA Lifetime Achievement Award, was feted with a 75th birthday party on Day 3 and a star-studded awards ceremony to help close out the conference.
Chavis’ family offered heartfelt words of appreciation and admiration during the ceremony, hosted by Rev. Mark Thompson.
Chavis’ longtime friend and hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons, Public Enemy founder Chuck D, Fat Joe, Kurtis Blow, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Congressman James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), NAACP President Derrick Johnson, and many others paid tribute in video form.
Rocky Bucano, Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, also arrived in San Juan to take part in the celebrations honoring Chavis.
Billy Murphy, a well-known Baltimore attorney, announced a $50,000 Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Scholarship.
General Motors, Hyundai, Wells Fargo, AARP, Nissan, MCRD, Zillow, Compassion & Choices, Rebuild Local News, Comcast-NBC Universal, API, Diageo, Reynolds, Pfizer, Google News Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation counted among the NNPA’s partners and sponsors.
“Our NNPA executive committee and convention planning committee, chaired by Data News Weekly Publisher Terry Jones, are grateful that [everyone involved] has taken the time to join us in support of the Original Black Press,” said NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards.
“We are grateful to all of the NNPA’s corporate partners, sponsors, and supporters who have generously contributed to allow us to be together here in Puerto Rico,” Jones added.
Chavis, gracious but overwhelmed, stated that the NNPA is devoted to keeping its readers, constituencies, and supporters informed, engaged, and empowered through breaking news, cultural excellence, and visionary opinions and editorials.
“We are African American businesses that continue to provide a vital service to all communities across the country and around the world,” Chavis stated.
“This year marks the beginning of my tenth year as president and CEO, and it has been a remarkable journey as I have personally encountered some of the world’s best publisher leaders, journalists, and advocates for freedom, justice, equality, and equity.”