Real Times CEO speaks to Courier’s future

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For 100 years the Pittsburgh Courier has been a major force within the community, telling the stories of those who often times did not have a chance to tell their story. It has been a valuable resource for the Black community and its people. But it takes a strong support and foundation to maintain that resource and that is what Real Times Media Inc. is to the Courier.

HiramJackson
HIRAM JACKSON

In 1966, after years of financial troubles, the Pittsburgh Courier was purchased by Chicago Defender owner John Sengstacke. After the purchase the newspaper was revamped and renamed the New Pittsburgh Courier.

After the death of Sengstacke in 1997, Northern Trust Co., the trust he arranged some 23 years earlier, announced the sale of Sengstacke Enterprises; which owned the New Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender, the Memphis Tri-State Defender and the Michigan Chronicle.

After several legal battles, the newspapers were finally purchased by Real Times Media Inc, in 2003.

Hiram Jackson, CEO of Real Times, said, “We purchased the newspaper at a time of transition for the organizations and did so out of a desire to preserve and grow these (four papers) crown jewels of the African-American community.”

William Pickard, a board member and stockholder of Real Times, said that individually and collectively the newspapers were very important, often times instrumental in the milestones made by the African-American community and aside from the financial aspect, they wanted to keep these jewels of the community going and re-energize and revitalize their reputations and the things they were known for.

CourierStaff2010
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS—Courier 2010 staff are from left, front: Allison Palm, Joan Alli, Kathleen Bradley-Yocum, Debbie Norrell and Marcy Pryor. Back row, from left: Ulish Carter, Brenda Hill, Rebecca Nuttall, Debbie Vargus, Kathy Neely, Ashley Johnson, Chris Morrow and Rod Doss. Not pictured are Eric Gaines and Stephan Broadus. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Over the years, Real Times has seen some of its newspapers win the prestigious John B. Russwurm award, which is the highest award to earned by the best Black newspaper in the country.

Jackson said, like most CEOs of a major company, his job is challenging, yet fulfilling, because he wants to ensure that the newspapers are evolved into papers for the next generation, while maintaining the legacy and reputation for which they have become known for.

Although he is the CEO of the company that owns the New Pittsburgh Courier, he said he cannot take all the credit for the newspaper and its role within the Black community.

“Rod Doss (editor and publisher of the New Pittsburgh Courier) is the true leader of the paper,” Jackson said. “The wealth of knowledge and experience he brings is inspiring on many levels. I take great solace in knowing Mr. Doss is at the helm and helping Real Times accomplish that goal.”

As the New Pittsburgh Courier celebrates its 100th Anniversary, Jackson said, “Reaching a centennial anniversary is a significant achievement for any organization; but in today’s economic environment it is much more momentous for a newspaper.”

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At a time where many papers continue to fold due to various reasons, such as more emphasis on technology, Jackson said the Courier has continued to strive because it demonstrates that print media is a viable source of news and information despite the digital alternatives. “It is a true part of the community and continues to report on the issues relevant to the African-American community, which are so often missed by mainstream media.

As society becomes more technologically based, Jackson said so will the Courier. Real Times has and will continuously work to expand the digital portion of the paper. He adds that his goal for the Courier is to continue to honor its legacy while evolving and becoming even more involved in the community and in tune with the needs of the paper’s advertisers and its audience.

As for the future of Real Times and its newspapers, Pickard said, “I hope we can re-energize some of the activism that we saw in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Because some of our issues are just as acute now as they were 30, 40, 50 years ago.” He said he’d like to see the papers celebrate the successes of the Black community, highlight more of those who are doing good, not just draw attention to the issues that need more work.

Jackson said he looks forward to the Courier’s future and, “I fully expect that it will remain a cornerstone of the African-American community for the next 100 years.”

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