Last week I wrote about the Black community being in a state of Depression based on the unemployment rate along with the unprecedented home foreclosures, high drop-out rate from our schools and other social indicators we use to measure the lifeline of people.
Having said that, I want to commend the ten African American Congressional members on the Financial Services Committee, who walked out of a meeting in protest because of under-funding to the African American community. Their protest held up the vote and sent a powerful message that we are tired of supporting the good health of others all the time and not speaking up for our own.
With that in mind I wish to point out that the Black Press has been discriminated against, ignored, and used as an afterthought by our federal government when it comes to advertising dollars. Back in 2000 then President William “Bill” Clinton singed Executive Order 13170 directing all agencies to take aggressive measures to ensure substantial participation in federal advertising when it came to minority and women businesses. The senate sub committee chaired by Senator John Kerry later did and investigation that discovered the Small Business Administration had taken little action to implement these policies under the George Bush administration. A report by the federal government given to the Standard Directory of Advertisers in 2001 showed the government spent $435 million dollars in advertising with none going to the Black Press. That year the government was ranked as the 45th largest advertiser in America.
In 2007 the federal government reported to Advertising Age that they spent $1.7 billion dollars in advertising and ranked 29th as and agency while ranking 13th in the category of industries. They spent money with everybody and everything but the Black Press. Being in 29th place puts them just behind private giants like Procter & Gamble, AT&T, General Motors, Walt Disney, Toyota and other leaders in the industry.
I know you are asking what does the federal government spends so much money on advertising since they have no products for people to buy. Have you seen those Army, Air Force, Marines, or Navy commercials on television? Or have you seen the ads in other venues like newspapers, magazines, billboards, and sides of buses? These are paid ads not public service announcements like they want us to place in our papers.
This also includes other educational messages they spend money on to make the public aware of when it comes to public safety, as well as drug related or health issues. Most of the money is tied up with large advertising and public relations firms in contracts that don’t trickle down to media outlets on the community level.
I agree with Representative Maxine Waters,” we can not sit back in silence while our people suffer”. I might add that the bonus money the fat cats on Wall Street will give themselves this year alone is more than the federal government has ever spent on advertising in the Black media. Even the protest walk out by these ten members was for a measly $4 billion dollars and that was to help 35 million African American United States citizens that was born and raised here.
One of the benefits that would come from those advertising dollars are jobs at these papers. The reason we cannot employ more people is lack of revenue. With a sizeable stimulus advertising contract over 300 reporters could be employed with a sales force to bring in private advertising to obtain other funds to make our industry grow. We are already self sustaining and have done so for almost 200 years, but with additional assistance from advertisers we could do much more in educating our public. We could help lift them out of poverty, reduce the drop out rate, increase employment, and improve the trust level between our people and the government.
We are not the enemy, nor are the special interest groups. We are hard working, faithful American that contribute to the general welfare and security of this great nation that sometimes do not trust us. To paraphrase what Danny Bakewell, Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said “we are not asking for a bail out nor hand out,” we are seeking respect and reciprocity from what we have already given from our investment thorough taxes, blood, sweat and tears.