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CSUN student launches newspaper aimed at African-Americans

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by Justino Aguilo, Daily News

saharrawhiteSaharra White knew that starting a newspaper wouldn’t be easy given the state of the publishing industry and the souring economy – but she also knew it was the right thing to do.

As a student, she had very little money, but a lot of hope and plenty of support from her friends and family.

Then last year, inspired by the injustices of the world and Sen. Barack Obama’s bid for president, Say It Loud! was born – a newspaper for African-Americans of the San Fernando Valley.

It gave the then-California State University, Northridge, student something to do for her community as she continued to pursue her journalistic dreams.

She used her small savings to launch the paper and received donations from friends.

“I wanted to start the newspaper because there are black people in the Valley doing some positive things,” said White, 24. “If this paper was available back when I was in middle school, my life would have been easier.”

Temporarily living and working in Uganda teaching girls the craft of writing while continuing to publish an online version of Say It Loud!, White said she feels it’s important to chronicle African-Americans and their impact in arts, culture, business, politics, health and education. In her coverage, she has also taken a look at black Hispanics and even included some stories in Spanish to reach them.

White, who depends on advertising and donations to keep her publication in business, decided recently to publish online exclusively at sayitloudnews.com.She knew that starting the paper was going against the odds when media companies across the country have been cutting back and laying off editorial staffs, no matter what size publication.

“I know this is a tough industry,” White conceded. “And I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

According to the Black Newspaper Publishers Association, also known as the Black Press of America, there are more than 200 black community newspapers across the country.

Some of those publications include the Chicago Defender, New Amsterdam News in New York, Philadelphia Tribune and the L.A. Sentinel, which won the Black Press of America’s Number One African American Newspaper award for 2007-2008.

“I applaud anyone starting out at this time when the newspaper business is changing drastically,” said Danny Bakewell Jr., president and executive editor of the Sentinel.

“People still have more confidence in newspaper publications than they do in e-mail, Internet, television or radio.”

Bakewell said the Sentinel doubled its sales after Obama’s win, selling 75,000 copies of the weekly publication. At a recent auction, the presidential edition of the paper fetched $300.

White said she hopes to bring to her readers the stories that matter most to them, including continued coverage of Obama as he shapes the nation’s future.

“People generally lose interest once the political season is over,” said Andre Herndon, executive editor of Los Angeles Wave, a publication that caters to African-Americans. “But for African-Americans, that’s not going to be the case for the next four or eight years.”

White said she’s excited at the prospect of including more political coverage as she continues to publish.

Her can-do attitude makes all the difference, said Tom Spencer-Walters, chairman of Pan African Studies at CSUN and a mentor to White. “Not only is she passionate about journalism, but she has been innovative in her career choice,” Spencer-Walters said.

“She’s not waiting to be given a job. She’s started a newspaper, which is a voluminous task, and I’ve been very impressed.”

Her one-year-old publication is produced by a pool of freelancers, mostly CSUN journalism students. The small staff of about a half-dozen e-mail each other, and White edits remotely.

Before going online, White distributed her newspaper to local libraries, barbershops, eateries and several CSUN locations.

In the premiere issue of Say It Loud!, she included items on AIDS Walk Los Angeles, grant programs for migrant families, the American Black Film Festival and poetry.

People throughout the black community have admired her activist-publisher role and some know that creating a media product isn’t easy.

“I didn’t think it was going to be feasible,” Spencer-Walters said. “I thought it was a bold and formidable venture given all I know about newspapers and journalism, but when I first saw that first edition I was so impressed that I had to send her a long e-mail and congratulate her for an effort that I didn’t think was possible.”

White wanted to wait until 2008 to start the venture, but knew that with a looming election, she had to produce something sooner than later.

“When times are tough, you’ve got to keep moving,” White said. “If I let every obstacle stand in my way, I would be a statistic. I know I’m going to face struggles as a publisher, as a women, and as an African-American. But I am not going to let barriers keep me down. I have much more to accomplish.”

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Written by Symphony

November 29, 2008 at 7:46 am

One Response

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  1. great story!

    thank you for your love of humanity and the black community.

    imperfect_black

    February 27, 2009 at 12:09 am


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