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Florida Black Newspaper Seeks Partnerships to Survive

Ethnic Media in the Recession

New America Media, News Report, Cristina Fernandez-Pereda Posted: Aug 20, 2009

To increase its chances of surviving the recession, a Florida newspaper for African and Caribbean Americans is seeking partnerships with organizations ranging from the U.S. Census Bureau to the University of Miami.

Brad Bennett, the executive editor of the South Florida Times, a weekly with a circulation of 20,000, said the new strategy has helped the paper cope with what he called the best and worst times for journalism.

We have to work harder to fill up our 12 pages, Bennett said in a recent interview. Of course, it was easier when ads were coming in.

Bennetts search for new partners took him to the National Ethnic Media EXPO and Awards organized by New America Media in Atlanta last June. There he met U.S. Census Bureau officials who were exploring ways the agency could work with ethnic media. On the following Monday, Helda M. Silva, a representative from the bureau, went to the South Florida Times office in Fort Lauderdale to discuss a partnership.

"This relationship is such a success because it really connects the U.S. Census with key players of the minority media," said Silva, who has worked as vice president of news for Univision and Telefutura in Miami and New York. What it means to me is exemplified with my relation with Brad Bennett [resulting in] two major articles involving the Census and the African-American and Caribbean-American population.

The partnerships between ethnic media outlets and the Census Bureau vary from buying ad space in a newspaper to providing journalists with information for stories on the communities they cover. The agencys effort to work with ethnic media comes out of fears that ethnic communities were undercounted in the 2000 Census. In Florida, for example, an estimated 200,000 people reportedly were not counted.

Communities could lose their fair share of more than $300 billion for schools, hospitals, senior citizen centers and other community services, said Bennett.

The South Florida Times survival strategy also includes increasing its online presence, a move that Bennett says has expanded readership and made the newspaper a direct competitor of the Miami Herald, the areas largest publication.

Our readers know our publisher, Robert Beatty, Esq., because he worked before at the Miami Herald, Bennett said. His reputation precedes him. But they also know that we break a lot of news that you cannot read anywhere else unless you pick it up from us.

Bennett said that although the newspaper would like to collaborate with the Miami Herald, establishing that relationship has not been easy. Recently, for example, South Florida Times covered a story about the use of the Confederate flag during a Veteran's Day Parade. The story had been offered to the Miami Herald by members of the community but the South Florida Times ended up covering it. According to Bennett, the newspaper offered the Herald to run the first few paragraphs of the stories on their Web site with a link to the South Florida Times site and attribution. The Miami Herald decided to run the full stories and eventually sent their own reporter to cover it.

Repeated calls to the Miami Herald requesting comment for this report were not returned.

The competition proves how important it is for the South Florida Times to have a strong presence on the Internet, said Bennett. If we wait to run stories in our paper, we're dead," he said.

The South Florida Times newspaper also collaborated with journalism students from the University of Miami, who covered Pres. Barack Obama's inauguration in January.

I approached them to incorporate the news service coverage created by the graduate journalism students, Bennett said. Then they told me that a group of students had managed to find a way to make it to Washington for the inauguration and we decided to use their stories in our paper.

The opportunity provided the southern Florida newspaper with the kind of coverage it could not have afforded, and the journalism students with an outlet to publish their writing and photographs of a historic moment. Their combined efforts made it possible for the South Florida Times to publish coverage before and after the inauguration, with stories about the experiences of local people traveling all the way to Washington, D.C.

The newspaper is also expanding coverage beyond the African-American and Caribbean communities. We are trying to build up as others scale down, said Bennett.

Ironically, the hard times at mainstream newspapers have presented an opportunity for the South Florida Times. Large lay-offs at the Miami Herald have left the area with many experienced reporters and editors who are now working as freelancers. Their experience and knowledge of the region becomes a valuable asset for other local and smaller publications.

I've been reading all of them for years, and readers know them, too, Bennett said.

South Florida Times readers are often surprised to see the bylines of former Miami Herald writers, but that has also kept readers coming back.

We have the journalists, we have the stories and the readers. Now we need the ads, Bennett said, and we are working on that.

Related Articles:

Advertisers Ditching Black Media for Hispanic Outlets

Newspaper Jobs Arent Dead

Mainstream & Ethnic Media Should Partner to Deliver News

Print Is Dead? Hispanic Publications Defy Trend, Tell a Different Story

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