Conference news
Posted: October 19, 2007 05:15 PM
Web 'Changing the Genre' of Black Press

Eric Easter and Kinsey Wilson

Eric Easter discusses the the evolution of black media online on a panel with Kinsey Wilson. (Photo by Ashley Southall)

Digital integration gives the black press a chance to reconnect the African-American community more than 50 years after the “split and spread” that accompanied desegregation, says Eric Easter.

The Web is going to "reshape how we define news and information, and the way we present it as well," said Easter, chief digital strategist for Johnson Publishing Company (JPC), the world's largest African-American-owned and –operated publishing company. “And the challenge is to remain relevant in the technologies and to be in places where the audience is.”

Easter says the globalization of Black culture has expanded the Black press's competition to include virtually every media outlet. He says that stories the Black press once “owned” are now up for grabs. And Black publications have struggled to compete with publications that have larger, wider circulations.

Still, Easter says the Web offers the Black press a chance to reclaim its initial role and undo the drawbacks of civil integration.

"You used to be able to walk down the street when you lived in a Black neighborhood and grab a Black newspaper because it was everywhere you went. Now, if you live in the suburbs or you live in the ritzy part of town, like a lot of Black folk do, you could go months without ever seeing a Black publication,” Easter said. “So, there’s still very much a niche, very much a need.”

The Black press's move to digital technology also presents specific challenges to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Many of the journalists employed by Black publications matriculated in these institutions.

Easter, a 1983 graduate of the Johnson School of Communications at Howard University (named after JPC’s founder and namesake, John H. Johnson), says it is imperative for Black schools to nurture business and entrepreneurial skills, teaching students “to be owners, not employees.”

-- Ashley Southall

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8th Annual Conference and Awards Banquet, Oct. 17-19, Sheraton Centre, Toronto

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Oct. 19, 2007 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.: Breakfast Discussion Groups (Sponsored by AFP) 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Community/Convergence Workshop: The Cutting Edge of Online Data 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Content/Design Workshop: Finding Your Voice Online 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: Business Workshop: Leading the 21st Century Newsroom 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.: General Session: Membership Meeting 10:45 a.m. - Education Members Meeting, Expanding ONA's educational offerings, Dominion Ballroom 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m: Keynote: Michael Oreskes, International Herald Tribune 12:15 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Lunch on Your Own (Box lunch sponosred by 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Community/Convergence Workshop: Broadcaster Strategies for the Web 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Content/Design Workshop: Integrating Multimedia in Storytelling 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Business Workshop: Legal Panel 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.: Community/Convergence Workshop: Revamping Your Curriculum for Online Journalism 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.: Content/Design Workshop: Integrating User-Generated Content 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.: Business Workshop: Advertising 2.0 4:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.: Coffee Break (Sponsored by Pluck) 4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Journalism Next: Impact of Aggregators, Blogging and Social Networking on the Industry 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Reception sponsored by 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.: Awards banquet

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