By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association of African-American-owned newspapers and media companies, is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by establishing the NNPA Coronavirus Task Force and Resource Center.
The task force will include publishers, editors, physicians, nurses, corporate partners, sponsors, associates and supporters of the Black Press of America.
The national resource center will be structured to provide timely and accurate information to stakeholders and the African-American community.
“It is well documented that African-Americans get sick more frequently, are screened for illness less often, are diagnosed for disease later, are treated less aggressively and buried earlier than those in other ethnic groups in America,” said Sheila Thorne, president and CEO of Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group, LLC.
“The reasons for health disparities are complex. The deadly spread of the coronavirus in the United States exacerbates not only the poor health status of African-Americans but it exposes their persistent lack of access to quality, culturally competent healthcare from testing to diagnosis to treatment,” Thorne stated.
“I applaud the NNPA for taking a leadership position to disseminate accurate and culturally relevant health information to Black Americans that will protect all in the community and save lives, especially those who are underserved and underrepresented.”
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said she was pleased that the NNPA has established a task force and resource center and she’s looking forward to contributing.
“The NNPA Coronavirus Task Force and Resource Center is a one-stop spot for curated news and resources specific to Black people in America,” Bass stated.
“Since 1940, the NNPA has built a network of member publications across the country that covers news and issues most important to Black people in America. The NNPA is a trusted source to reach the Black community, often times overlooked by mainstream media.”
Robert W. Bogle, the chairman, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest and the Greater Philadelphia region’s largest audited newspaper serving the African-American community, stated that the mission of the Black Press is being carried out despite the current crisis.
“We became an independent voice to speak up and speak out and deliberately embracing and telling our story,” Bogle offered. “It’s part of our history, and it’s who we are.”
“It doesn’t mean that others don’t write about us, but are they writing to us and for us? I say, ‘No.’ People in our business have to understand and recommit themselves and reaffirm who we are and the critical role that we play.
“For a lot of businesses, this is a short interruption. Newspapers will be hurt in a critical and severe way. We’ve experienced a day where we didn’t do a dollar’s worth of business. We had cancellations. We have to stop and think about who we are doing business with. If they don’t support us, we should not support them.”
In a memo circulated by NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., and on behalf of NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards and the NNPA Board of Directors, the trade association noted that all are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is important to note that the majority of the NNPA member publishers across the nation are remaining on the frontline of providing vital and crucial information to African-Americans and others who are challenged by the expanding and growing public health crisis confronting our families and communities,” Chavis wrote.
“Our member newspapers are still printing, and our online and digital distributions of vital life-saving accurate information on COVID-19 are all being done responsibly and effectively. Yet, many of our newspapers are facing a reduction in advertising at a time during this crisis when our news businesses are crucially needed.”
NNPA’s national office has put out an urgent call to federal, state, and local public health officials to immediately increase their outreach to Black America via NNPA member publications.
Through the unprecedented public health crisis, personnel at the NNPA’s main office in Washington, D.C., have worked nonstop to find additional ways to help Black America push through the pandemic.
The task force, which will include top infectious disease doctors, medical and health experts from various organizations, and public officials, will aggregate facts and update information about how COVID-19 is impacting Black America in all age categories across the nation.
The task force will send out periodic national COVID-19 alerts to all in the NNPA database, and establish daily coordination between the NNPA and the National Medical Association (NMA), National Black Nurses Association (NBNA), and medical schools at HBCUs to collaborate on best practices and other vital information to assist Black America throughout the pandemic.
Chavis said Bass, the CBC Chair, has been instrumental in the drafting of the stimulus bill that’s now before the U.S. Congress and she’s worked diligently to ensure that the legislation would include some form of assistance for the Black Press.
“At a time like this, our people cannot afford to be ill-informed,” Bass stated. “The creation of the NNPA Coronavirus Taskforce and Resource Center is a great step in the right direction to ensuring Black people get the pertinent information not just at the national level, but at the local and community level. When we leave out the Black Press, we leave a gap, and miss out on effectively safeguarding our community during this global pandemic.”
The leadership of the NNPA established the Coronavirus Task Force and National Resource Center as a responsible action to inform and to engage millions of Black Americans and others in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Chavis added.
“We want to contribute to the saving of Black lives and to protect our families, businesses, and communities from this fatally contagious virus,” Chavis stated.