Saturday, 31 January 2009

Death of a Nation

Word on the street is that black magazines and newspapers are redundant. Outdated, done with, about as on trend as a Michael Jackson impersonator. Last week one of Britain's only two black newspapers went into administration. The New Nation launched in 1996 and at it's peak sold in excess of 20,000 copies a week. Combining a heady mix of celebrity news, provocative features, politics and sports, the publication was a fresh and exuberant alternative to its more politicized rival - The Voice. But although off to a flying start, last year the paper nosedived rapidly only managing to shift a mere 6000 copies a week. Over the last few days I've read two informative articles which offer insight into the downfall of the New Nation. Overground Online asks whether the future of Black newspaper is online, while journalist Angela Foster asserts that we still need black press in her piece for the Guardian.  I should really know from experience not to read the comments posted on the Guardian website when issues regarding race is raised. The ignorance of some of the individuals who post is astounding. It still baffles me that some people can become so enraged by the actions of a community who have decided enough is enough. That tired of being misrepresented or ignored by the mainstream media,  they have decided to create something that reflects their interests. I almost wet myself laughing when one commenter said well surely the fact that the papers dedicated masses of coverage to the Obama presidency campaign and the Victoria Climbie case proves that the mainstream press are serving the needs of the African Caribbean community. Wow! I stay here humbled and thankful for your kindness massa *breaks into a uncle Tom-esque tap dance shuffle*. Excuse me for thinking that the extensive Obama coverage was due to the fact that he was running for the top position in the highest office, and not some kind of altruistic act of tokenism. These comments prove we still have a long long long way to go before we can really throw around misleading terms like 'multi-culturalism'. As for the future of black publications? Who knows. As a black woman who works for a black magazine, obviously this is an issue of concern for me. I totally agree with some of the comments made in the Overground Online piece. Some Black media outlets in the UK need to move with the times, and recognise that the future of media is definitely online. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Why do you think black newspapers and magazines are failing to sustain its audience? Or do you even think there is a need for black mags and papers in 2009? 


Ondo Lady said...

Everytime I saw a copy of New Nation it just looked so out of date. I could see the appeal of the paper to those in their 30s and 40s but who do you know that is in their early 20s and teens who read that paper. I think the media has moved on in leaps and bounds with rss feeds, blogs, youTube and that is what people take for granted now. I say that digital media not just online is the future; Twitter and Blackberry's are leading the way. There will definately be a need for printed media but only if they can combine it with online and digital mediums. Also the paper or magazine has to look visually attractive or people will not go anywhere near it.

Matilda Egere-Cooper said...

I credit the New Nation for launching my journalism career, having freelanced their under the tutelage of Pulse Editor Justin Onyeka from 2001-2005...I could never speak for the entire paper, but Justin's aim was for entertainment news and features to be edgy and provocative and it helped me to develop my own style. But the reality is, they should have embraced the online revolution when they had the chance, considering you've got mere bloggers out here creating the kind of traffic advertisers would trip over for.
I do think there needs to be forums out there for specialist/niche demographics, but @ the same time, it has to be clear who they're aiming - my mother's generation or me? Because I'm www all the way, where my mom aint really trying to work out YouTube :)

Shanti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanti said...

I just finished writing a post about the same topic, different focus.

In regards to whether there is a need for ethnic media - yes, both hands up. There is no way anytime soon that mainstream media is going to give ethnic communities the amount of coverage they need. To cater for all the different cultures in London alone, you'd need a trolley to carry the newspaper out of the shop.

What can be done...
I think there needs to be more of a regional UK wide focus, with more community news from around the country instead of London centric. This might help boost readership numbers. It boils down to content, and there needs to be much more of it. It needs to be worth buying the paper for - a couple of pages of news then a very good entertainment section might sell the paper to me but like Matilda said, someone like my Mum would need much more.

Online is definitely the way forward and I agree, they should have capitalised on this opportunity a while ago. As Ondo Lady said, the publication looked dated. Having an up to date website would have showed advertisers that they were moving with the times and worth investing their money in.

Hopefully, the paper can continue in some form, i.e. through a stand alone website or some kind of collaboration with a mainstream publication that could provide them with a great business model, structure and networks.

MsQuiche said...

I agree with all points raised, I think the black British media will always be in a conundrum because there is so little product out there, so publishers take the view that they have to be all things to all people. I'm sad to see New Nation go though, it was a nice read during its heyday, and like Matilda said - it helped to nurture young black writers who otherwise wouldn't have an outlet to write about stuff that interests them.

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I am a thirty-something African Caribbean female from South East London. My blog will shine a light on Black British culture offering the best in entertainment, fashion, beauty, community, film & music, with the occasional personal musing thrown in from yours truly. Thank you for taking out the time to peek into the pages of my diary. Now grab a cup of cocoa, relax and enjoy.