"Kerry will suffer," says Dorothy Leavell, chairperson of Amalgamated Publishers, Inc, a black-owned company that places ads for more than 200 black newspapers nationwide. She and other black press executives believed a July 14 press release from the campaign of Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards, promoting a "$2 million buy on African American media" -- television, radio and print. Instead they received "next to nothing," says API Chief Financial Operations Manager Mark Channing.
As a result, black voters are "unexcited," says Leavell. "A lot of us feel no one is talking to us and the only way to talk to us is through the black press."
The July announcement was hailed as a "smart move" by the New Pittsburgh Courier. As a black paper in a swing county of a battleground state, the Courier had hoped to gain a significant chunk of that money. It was a signal that the Democrats would not take the black vote for granted.
"Presidential parties should pay up or shut up," the paper is now editorializing. Courier Assistant to the Publisher Stephan Broadus declined to comment, except to say "the editorial speaks for itself."
Only one ad ever made it into black papers, at a price of less than $200,000. According to API surveys, almost 88 percent of regular black paper readers do not read general-interest newspapers.
The Bush/Cheney campaign, of course, hasn't advertised in the black press either. Last winter, Channing says, he was summoned to a meeting with the Republican Party, where officials told him black papers weren't giving the party fair coverage. Channing offered an advertising plan, but "we never got the courtesy of even an acknowledgement of our proposal," he says.
"All the big headlines about money spent in black papers is all smoke and mirrors and there is a lot of resentment and hard feelings among the black communities and papers because they seem to be just taking us for granted," he adds.