By: Tony Best
On a cool morning in 1982, a new kind of paper hit the newsstands in New York City. It was also delivered to neighborhood centers and community facilities, churches, senior citizens centers, youth institution, you name them.
Its pages had a heavy mix of news from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and their Caribbean neighbors; stories about New York City neighborhoods that were populated in the main by people of color; carried human interest features about Blacks, be they native New Yorkers or Caribbean immigrants and highlighted sports that range from cricket, netball and soccer to baseball, basketball and American style football.
The New York Carib News had then and continues to hold fast to a specific mission: to fill a void in the flow of information to and about the growing Caribbean community in New York and the countries in the region from which the Diaspora came. Another key element of that mission was to promote the concept of a bridge between those persons whose navel strings were buried in different parts of the U.S. and in the countries that form the archipelago of islands surrounded by the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Thirty years later, as it celebrates its historic milestone, the weekly is being hailed by a diverse readership, Caribbean and U.S. national, regional and local institutions and by key public figures who see it as a major molder of public opinion on the issues of importance to people and as a valuable source of accurate information “about us,” as U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn member of the U.S. House of Representative in Washington.
“It’s difficult to imagine a City and a Caribbean immigrant community without the Carib News,” was the way New York State Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, administrative judge of the civil court system of Brooklyn, put it yesterday. “If the paper didn’t exist we would have to go out there and create it. It has and continues to provide an essential service.”
By “we” Justice Hinds-Radix was referring to New Yorkers who occupy positions of considerable influence, work hard at though jobs, dream of securing a sound education and to those immigrants who trace the roots of their respective family trees to the Caribbean. She is from Barbados, her husband, Dr. Joseph Radix was born in Grenada, and she has lived most of her life in New York after studying law at Howard University in Washington.
Carib News, whose approach to journalism is anchored to a penchant of objectivity, fairness and accuracy was once described by the late outstanding Caribbean outstanding scholar and education administrator, Prof. Rex Nettleford, as the “most Caribbean of newspapers to be found anywhere.” His assessment was based, not simply on its coverage of West Indians at home and abroad but on the breadth of our involvement as a community institution. Our sponsorship of trade exhibitions that encourage small business development, an annual focus on the excellent parental skills of Black mothers, and our editorial board sessions that enable Caribbean presidents, prime ministers and cabinet ministers, mayors, borough presidents, state and local elected officials, diplomatic ambassadors at the United Nations and with key business executives and owners to exchange ideas with people who are keenly interested in advancing the interests and well-being of New Yorkers, newcomers just off the plane from the Caribbean and Africa, and of various age groups.
Like the visionaries who launched the Freedom Journal, America’s first Black newspaper in the 1820s, Carib News founders, Karl and Faye Rodney have built a company on a foundation of trust and on the principle that the “civil rights of a people being of the greatest value” and therefore must be protected.
The weekly has adapted to the changing nature of the U.S. and global news ecosystem that’s being propelled by high technology, especially the Internet, and by the dramatic shifts in the economics of the newspaper business. Declining advertising revenues and the proliferation of the social media have done some key things to the traditional newspaper model: demolished old ways of doing business; made news consumption a participatory and social experience; and encourage the Black print media to go on line to take advantage of new opportunities and to stay viable. Just as important is the U.S. financial crunch which has fashioned an albatross around the necks of media executives and owners of mainstream and Black media houses, all of which must compete for a smaller pie in a more diverse market. The upshot: tighter operating budgets that threaten the survival of many publications. But pessimism isn’t a solution. The search for new opportunities to attract more readers; generate more revenue; and heighten consumer satisfaction is the obvious answers.
Our brought inter-active website is attracting new and younger and expanding our reach and horizons every day.
We play a unique role in the ethnic media universe. While our major market is the Caribbean immigrant community, the broader African-American community is also our target audience. After all, West Indians live and function in the U.S. as people of color, subject to the same levels of discrimination and deprivation of American-born Blacks. That fact means we must continue to cover all areas of the Black experience exercising the care and the sensitivity that have and will continue to make Carib News an important member of the community.
Our annual multi-national business conference, Mother of the Year special, Black History Month editions and our involvement in the planning and conduct of events that bring people together and strengthen our institutions are essential to our ability to serve. We have thrived on the devotion of our readers, who trust us, above others. And that’s how we plan to keep it.
Thanks for your support, devotion and trust which we must continue to earn daily.