As news editor of New Nation, I would get asked time and time again: "Do we really need black newspapers?" That question would often come from well-meaning individuals who were of the view that having a separate paper for the black community simply bred division. Couldn't we all just get along?Apparently, only if we are all reading separate media. Nope, I don’t understand that either…
What I would try to explain was that with mainstream newspapers paying scant attention to stories affecting the black community – and with so few ethnic minority reporters working on those papers – then, yes, we absolutely needed a black newspaper.Why…? I could understand it on ‘comment’ pieces, but the news is the news. Why should anyone care what colour the talking head telling us about it is?
And what’s prompted this sudden concern for the ethnic makeup of the media? Well, it seems it isn’t considered so necessary by the people who actually buy the thing:
Which is why I was sad to learn of the demise of New Nation, once billed as Britain's No 1-selling black newspaper. Ethnic Media Group, its owner, has gone into administration, and last week's edition of New Nation will probably be the last.Oh, well, cheer up! At least you finally have equality somewhere…
By 2007, though, like many newspapers, it was beginning to feel the pinch, hit by declining advertising revenues and competition from the internet. But there were other factors too: the fall in public sector advertising; plus increasing coverage of ethnic minority issues in the national press – which meant its reporters were competing for stories with far fewer resources – and lack of investment took its toll.Hang on! A minute ago you were whining that these didn’t get covered enough, now you admit that coverage is increasing. Make your mind up!
So is there still a need for the black press? Yes. There are still many issues affecting the black community that do not get covered in many mainstream papers – for instance, the disproportionate number of black people in mental health institutions and the high school exclusion rates for black boys.Mmm, yeah, we’ve heard nothing about those issues, have we? It’s not like it’s a favourite topic in the ‘Guardian’ and ‘Independent’, where it’s usually accompanied by pleas for more money, more relaxing of standards or more ‘research’ into the topic….
And can we shoehorn an Obama reference into this column? Yes we can:
Times have changed since New Nation was launched and certainly the Voice 27 years ago. With debates raging over whether the US president, Barack Obama, should describe himself as black or mixed race, and figures showing the mixed-race population is the fastest growing ethnic group in the UK, the black press still has a role to play as black Britons of every hue look to forge their own identity.Perhaps if they spent less time banging on and on about how separate they are, they wouldn’t need a ‘black press’ or an identity other than ‘British’…?