With the alarming changes in the current political landscape and how African-Americans in specific are being impacted there are growing signs that all things Black, included the Black press is on the chopping block. In a recent move to “stretch” its dollars the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has eliminated all funding for advertising its programs in African-American newspapers.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has initiated a campaign that aims to bring awareness to a number of its programs, including CHIP/Children’s Medicaid, SNAP Ed, Speak Your Mind, Alternatives to Abortion and Healthy Texas Women. Funds upwards of $1.75 million are allocated towards digital and social media and radio advertisement to target primarily African-American and Hispanic women and children with the aim of providing vital information. For example, the SNAP Ed program seeks to educate African-American and Hispanic communities about health and nutrition as well as provide tools and knowledge on maintaining a healthy lifestyle whereby avoiding chronic diseases.
Information of this nature is critical to the Black community as by in large African-Americans suffer from not only chronic diseases but a host of other social issues at an alarmingly higher rate than their counterparts, including Hispanics. A recent major report generated by the Texas Department of State Health Services found African-Americans have the lowest life expectancy, highest rates of obesity, lowest percentage of women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, double the infant mortality rate and lead to cancer, stroke, and heart-related deaths.
With such grave disparities, it begs the question as to why any and every venue available would not be utilized to proliferate awareness among African-Americans. According to the Director of Communications of the Health and Human Services Commission Bryan Black, “Digital advertising is receiving most of the funding. Trends are showing more and more people are getting their information from digital sources. Plus, we are finding our funds can stretch further using digital media.”
The North Dallas Gazette asked Black if there has been a raised awareness with the elimination of print advertisements as well as a number of other questions. Unfortunately, he declined to answer. However, the Assistant Press Officer, Kelli Weldon, sent the following response:
“The Health and Human Services Commission is committed to delivering critical information to Texans across the state. The agency uses multiple platforms to communicate these messages including newspaper, radio, TV and digital advertising. Right now, two current HHSC outreach campaigns are providing advertising dollars to the Texas Publishers Association and its member newspapers to deliver public information to the African-American community.”
Since its inception, the Black press has always held a unique space in the African-American community. The Black press has always acted as the unofficial liaison between the community and mainstream America. Even with the technological advancements and changes in media it remains a fixture in our communities.
“At a time when the credibility of media is under attack, it is important to note that for people of color, the mainstream media has always lacked credibility. The black press and the ethnic press as a whole have consistently maintained far more credibility in their communities than their mainstream counterparts,” Martin Reynolds, a journalist, and co-director of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
Why does this statement matter and why is it relevant to the African-American community in Texas as it relates to the Health and Human Services Campaign? Simply put, the services, the information the HHSC is attempting to spread, the awareness it is striving to raise has a much greater chance of permeating the Black community via a credible source. Even with the huge presence of Blacks on social media sites, the most credible source in the community is Black newspapers. And the reason for this is because those who write for Black newspapers, those who own them come from and are in the midst of the very people whom they target.