Chicago Reader now Black-owned thanks to Dorothy Leavell
By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
Dorothy Leavell, the fiery and fearless chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and publisher of the Chicago and Gary Crusader newspapers, announced that she has led a group in purchasing the “Chicago Reader.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s a historic purchase that brings the alter-native newspaper with an audited weekly circulation of about 85,000 into the NNPA family of 220 African American newspapers and media companies.
The paper had most recently been owned by the Chicago Sun-Times, which reportedly will maintain a 15 percent stake in the Reader after the sale closes later this month.
“I see this as an opportunity to enhance the value of the Black Press through the [Chic-ago Reader],” Leavell told NNPA Newswire. “It is [now] definitely Black-owned.”
Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath joined Leavell at the Rainbow PUSH Convention in Chicago to first reveal the sale.
“We love the Reader and have worked hard to be sure it has a foundation for the future. All of us at the Sun-Times are thrilled that the Reader’s future is in such good hands,” Eisendrath said.
Such a marriage perhaps had less than a small chance of being consummated 25 years ago when the Reader staff poked fun at the NNPA and Leavell after Civil Rights Leader Nelson Mandela failed to attend a Black Press convention when he toured America after being released from prison in 1993.
In an article headlined, “Black Press Feels Neglected,” the Reader noted how Mandela found time for Ted Koppel, The New York Times and The Washington Post, but not the NNPA, which held its annual convention in Chicago at that time.
“The NNPA, which is the nation’s principal Black Press organization, was deeply insulted,” according to the article, which quoted Leavell, then Secretary of the NNPA.
Leavell and then-NNPA Executive Director Steve Davis jointly told the media that it wasn’t Mandela’s fault but those who scheduled him. “The visit has brought us to the realization that we must insist on the right to participate in all decisions involving the welfare of Black people,” they declared.
Now a quarter of a century later, Leavell has purchased the Reader.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on October 23, 1944, Leavell attended Roosevelt University.
She was first elected president of the NNPA in June of 1995 for a two-year term and was re-elected in June 1997 ending her term in 1999.
Leavell was credited with increasing the visibility and international stature of the trade organization. In June of 2006, Leavell was elected Chairman of the NNPA Foundation.
She was voted in as national chairman again in 2017.
“The NNPA resolutely congratulates our esteemed chairman, Dorothy R. Leavell, the publisher of the Chicago Crusader and the Gary Crusader, on her acquisition of the legendary Chicago Reader publication,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA. “This acquisition comes at a strategic national moment when the Black Press in America is growing, expanding, innovating and increasing market share across the United States.”
Further, the NNPA is experiencing significant increase in readership and engagement of African-American millennials in both out print and digital products, Chavis said.
“The Black Press has consistently maintained its trustworthy status with Black America at a time when there has been an erosion of trust in so-called mainstream media,” Chavis said. “For all of these contemporary reasons the future of the Black Press is reassured and affirmed by 47 million African Americans and millions of others throughout the world.”
Leavell said that she’d like to see the Reader’s long-form, investigative reporting expanded.
“We are going to broaden that scope,” Leavell said. “We want to be in every community to bring you the news that you enjoy already. We’re going to be expanding. We will increase our cultural information. You want to know what’s happening in Chicago? You gotta read the Reader.”
Energy Industry continues to Court Younger, more Diverse Workforce
“It was a great first step in opening, what I hope will be, an on-going dialogue and relationship,” McGowan said. “That’s the model that we want to employ throughout our state network, because we recognize the value in those relationships.”
API partnered with the National Newspaper Publishers Association to increase the awareness about job and business opportunities in the energy sector. The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies in the United States, that reach more than 20 million readers, combined, in print and online every week.
“We not only have a need for a diverse workforce, but also a younger workforce,” McGowan said. “We need new workers to come into the industry.”
McGowan said that a critical component to NCPC’s outreach efforts in North Carolina also includes engagement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the state.
In a partnership with the American Association of Blacks in Energy, NCPC hosted an event about opportunities in the energy sector at Winston-Salem State University. NCPC also invited HBCU students from schools like Johnson C. Smith University to attend an event focused on the oil and natural gas industry at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“We’re not neglecting college students, that’s still an important outreach avenue for us, but we’ve seen, more recently, that it’s also important to start getting in front of these students earlier,” McGowan said. “We start [reaching] them at the elementary, middle and high school levels so that they are aware of the opportunities in [STEM careers] and so that they’re best prepared to take advantage of those opportunities when they get to college.”
Touting the creation of job and business opportunities, McGowan said that his group advocates for expanding access to offshore environments and offshore waters off the coast of North Carolina for energy exploration and production in the Atlantic Ocean.
Earlier this year, The News and Observer reported that, “Supporters and opponents of offshore drilling gathered in Raleigh for the state’s only public hearing on the Trump administration’s controversial plan to open up the Atlantic coast for oil and gas exploration.”
While supporters of offshore drilling in North Carolina said that “the oil and gas industry would create good-paying, full-time jobs to prospect and later drill for oil and natural gas,” opponents argued that “oil spills would be an ever-present threat to the state’s environment, its tourism and fishing industries, and coastal people’s way of life,” The Observer reported.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that, President Donald Trump’s vision for dramatically expanding offshore exploration for oil and natural gas in the U.S., “calls for the largest auction of offshore leases in U.S. history—a total of 47 sales between 2019 and 2024, compared with 11 that had been scheduled in the 2017-2022 plan ironed out under President Barack Obama.”
The plan also includes three lease sales in the region that include federal waters off Virginia and North Carolina, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Still, McGowan said that, based on research provided by API, more than 50,000 jobs would be created by 2035, if offshore drilling and exploration moved forward off the coast of North Carolina.
McGowan continued: “That could be a tremendous opportunity, not only from an employment standpoint, but also from an economic development standpoint, as well.”