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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007 11:43 pm

In the black

As dailies falter, Springfield’s African-American-owned weeklies are thriving

Untitled Document Neither of Springfield’s two black newspaper owners was lured into the business by the potential for a large profit margin. In 1983, T.C. Christian participated as a member of a group called People United for Rights and Equality, which protested the lack of black entertainers booked for local performances. The group forced a meeting with the Prairie Capital Convention Center board to discuss the issue. Even though local media were present, Christian says, there was no mention on the TV news or in the daily newspaper. “That incident told me that I needed to start my own newspaper,” says Christian, who launched Pure News USA in tabloid format that same year. Disappointed by scant local news coverage of the Million Man March, held in Washington, D.C., Mike Pittman says he got the idea to start a newspaper in Springfield. It took him about a decade, and in July 2005 Pittman launched a 12-page monthly newspaper, the Capital City Courier. The two competitors both say they’re doing well financially, though neither will talk specifics. Unlike the established print-media world, which has lost readership and advertising to the Internet, local niche-oriented publications have managed to weather the storm by remaining free of overhead. Christian and his wife, Beverly, publish Pure News USA out of their home; Pittman uses the offices of his real-estate business, Pittman Enterprises. Neither employs full-time salaried employees for his newspaper. Although the two men employ slightly different journalistic philosophies, each credits loyal readers with a strong appetite for positive coverage of the African-American community for his paper’s success.
“We don’t have to do the police beat, because other media beat us up enough as it is,”
Christian says.
Pittman freely admits that he chooses provocative headlines and illustrations to induce people to pick up the paper but also says that most people respond favorably to the stories: “It’s a balancing act. People want something different. We have a unique way of covering news through our cover stories.”
Since its launch, Pittman’s Courier has doubled in size and is now distributed throughout central Illinois and in Chicago and St. Louis. Pure News will break into the St. Louis area in the coming months, Christian says. The two men agree that the presence of two black papers has enhanced, not harmed, their position. “When they see two black papers, they see the potential of the market. [The Courier] has strengthened our existence,” Christian says.
Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com.
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