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Final Call Newspaper wins Black Press awards

By News | Last updated: Jul 1, 2014 - 12:28:34 PM

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Final Call editor Richard B. Muhammad with three of four awards won at Black publishers convention Photo: Worsom Robinson

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PORTLAND, Ore. -  Awards night at the annual National Newspaper Publishers Association was a major one for The Final Call newspaper as Black America’s only nationally distributed weekly took home four awards: Best Editorial and Best Column, a second place award for tabloid design and a third place award for best youth columns.

“This was a huge surprise but we are humbled and grateful,” said Final Call editor Richard B. Muhammad, who wrote both of the first place entries. His first place editorial was titled “Haiti’s earthquake anniversaries must include action, not just media mourning,” and his winning Straight Words column was entitled “Punching Mickey In the Mouth.”

The editorial dealt with the regular mainstream media moaning each anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti as opposed to support and regular, balanced reporting on conditions, challenges and victories in the country. “I was struck that annual anniversaries point to little progress made but don’t talk about the failure to meet pledge goals of international support and the continued weakening of the Haiti’s government by giving resources and responsibilities to non-profits instead of Haiti’s elected leaders,” said Mr. Muhammad, who has visited Haiti several times over the years. “There was also little focus on Haiti’s strengths and efforts to help herself or help and talent in the Haitian Diaspora.”

His Mickey Mouse column focused on calls for a boycott of Florida following the killing of Black teenager Trayvon Martin. His essential argument was the boycott just needed to have enough force to make the tourism industry uncomfortable and raise the specter of losses and bad publicity for state lawmakers to choose between economic pain or changing Stand Your Ground laws seen as the precursor to the youngster’s death. “It was also about having enough pride to at least fight back and never surrender. There is a victory in fighting back and Black America needs to understand that,” said editor Muhammad.

All of the entries were for news coverage from last year.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association is the trade organization of Black-owned newspapers in the United States and includes some 200 publications that reach about 20 million people each week. The NNPA Merit Awards contest recognizes the best in Black journalism from newspapers run by Black people.

Richard B. Muhammad Final Call editor with Dr. Donald Suggs publisher of the St. Louis American, which was voted top Black newspaper. Photo: Worsom Robinson

“We accept these awards as encouragement and we accept these awards on behalf of our publisher, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam, our readers and supporters, and most of all on behalf of the mighty men of the Fruit of Islam who distribute this paper across the country and even in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean,” Mr. Muhammad said. “We pledge to continue to do our best to inform Black people, protect Black interests and to challenge the biased reporting and inaccurate media representation that we see on a daily basis.”

Former San Francisco mayor and Democratic powerbroker  Willie Brown received the NNPA prestigious  Legacy Award for his distinguished public service. The award was presented to Mr. Brown June 28 at the annual convention. After recounting his days as a paperboy for the Bay area’s Sun-Reporter,  Mr. Brown said, “Your role in the African American community is unparalleled.”

He said today, as in the past, Black readers rely on the Black Press more than White-owned publications. He said discussions in local barber and beauty shops center on what was published in that week’s Black newspapers. “They don’t read the other papers first—they don’t believe them,” said Mr. Brown, who served 15 years as speaker of the California Assembly before serving as mayor. “You represent the source of inspiration, the sense of accuracy.”

The St. Louis American won the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Russwurm/Sengstacke Trophy for general excellence for the third consecutive year, it was announced June 26 at the NNPA’s annual convention here. It was the Missouri newspaper’s 8th time winning the NNPA’s top award in the past 15 years. The award was named in honor of John B. Russwurm, co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first Black  newspaper, and late Chicago Defender Publisher John H. Sengstacke, founder of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, now the National Newspaper Publishers Association, in 1940. The winner of the award is determined each year by the paper that accumulates the most points in the 21 categories of the NNPA’s annual Merit Awards. With the honor goes the title of Best Black Newspaper in the nation.

Rosetta Miller Perry, publisher of the Tennessee Tribune in Nashville, was named Publisher of the Year by her fellow publishers. The Merit Awards are administered by the NNPA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Association. “We had more newspapers winning awards this year than at any time in recent memory,” said Mary Denson, chair of the NNPA Foundation and publisher of the Windy City Word in Chicago. “I think that’s a testament to the dramatic improvement our papers continue to make.”

Cloves C. Campbell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Arizona Informant, said, “As usual, the competition was extremely fierce this year and we congratulate all of the winners. This year’s Merit Awards winners have raised the bar of excellence that all of our papers can strive to meet.”

(George Curry and the NNPA Newswire contributed to this report.)