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Black Newspaper Publishers Unveil Online Publishing Initiative

The National Newspaper Publishers Association, an organization for black newspapers, unveiled an initiative yesterday to develop customized Web sites for its more than 200 member newspapers.

The three-year initiative will help bridge the “digital media divide” and will provide black newspapers with cutting-edge, affordable and easy-to-use online publishing technology, association officials said.

The online effort will be developed by the BlackPressUSA Network, a project of the NNPA Foundation's Black Press Institute; and Xchange Interactive (XI Group), its technology partner.

John J. Oliver, president of the NNPA, said the online initiative is urgently needed if the black press is to remain relevant to their communities.

“Less than 10 percent of black newspapers have a regularly maintained Web site,” said Oliver, who also is publisher of the Washington Afro-American and the Baltimore Afro-American. “We are determined to bring our member newspapers into the 21st century and to continue their historic role as the official recorder of the African-American experience.”

Under the program, the XI Group will construct and host the BlackPressUSA Network Web site and will develop a number of templates for use by NNPA member papers. Local papers will be able to customize their sites and develop content relevant to their communities. Papers within the network will be able to share content with one another, in addition to receiving feeds from the NNPA and its news distribution services.

Ben Jealous, executive director at the NNPA Foundation, said the initiative is designed to address three barriers to online publishing: high start-up costs, complicated technology and continuous revenue streams.

“For too long these barriers have stood in the way of progress for the black press,” Jealous said. “Now that the technology is available to address these concerns, we can move forward and continue to be a valuable resource to our communities.”

Jealous said the sites will include a number of special sections, including black history, special reports, financial information, sports coverage at historically black colleges, a resume and job posting service, personal ads and chat rooms.

The effort, which will bring 10 black newspapers online initially and up to 50 online by the end of the summer, is made possible by $125,000 in funding from the United Parcel Service, the NNPA's corporate sponsor. In addition to establishing the customized Web sites through online publishing technology, funding also will be used to train newspaper staffs to update and maintain the sites.

Additional sponsors are being sought to provide funding for the development of Web sites for the remaining 150 NNPA newspapers.

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