NAACP responds to Black Press' criticism of Image Awards campaign

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(NNPA)—The NAACP issued a statement March 24 responding to criticism from Black newspaper publishers about being excluded from the marketing campaign for its televised Image Awards.

Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the organization, said in the statement that the newspaper inserts for the Image Awards were produced and distributed by an outside firm which acquired a license to do so. The NAACP, he said, was told that Black papers would be included, but none ultimately were included in the distribution.

a8BenJealousNAACP
BENJAMIN JEALOUS

“The NAACP does not condone the agency’s decision to exclude Black community newspapers. It is contrary to our explicit instruction, and we were not aware of the agency’s decision until after the guides hit the papers. Nonetheless, it was made for a publication that bears our name, and as CEO I take ultimate responsibility for it,” stated Jealous.

Next year, he said that the contract for the viewer guides would only be licensed to an “agency that can guarantee they will use Black community newspapers.”

The full statement from Benjamin Todd Jealous follows:

This year’s NAACP annual Image Awards television show was a great success. However, on the eve of the show a serious mistake was made: circulars that were supposed to appear in both the mainstream press and Black community newspapers only appeared in the mainstream press.

For the past five years, the Association has licensed its brand and content from the Awards program to an advertising company that specializes in producing “official viewer guides” for awards shows. These guides are distributed as circulars in local mainstream newspapers.

The advertising company originally conceived the guide and presented it as a fundraiser to the NAACP. It is solely responsible for selling the ads and handling the distribution. It pays the NAACP a licensing royalty which is used to support our ongoing diversity efforts in Hollywood.

I am very sensitive to the need to support Black community newspapers. They are the only way to assure Black readers in a given community that you actually want your ads to reach them directly. In the past, I personally have both sold and purchased ads in Black community newspapers across the country. Moreover, I dedicated years of my life to working for them directly. I served as an investigative reporter and editor for the Jackson Advocate‚—the most frequently firebombed Black community newspaper in the country. I also served as executive director of the NNPA—the industry’s trade group.

Accordingly, I requested and received assurance from the advertising company that their distribution plan included Black community newspapers. However, the advertising company has failed to follow through. This year, when the guides came out they did not show up in any Black community newspapers.

The NAACP does not condone the agency’s decision to exclude Black community newspapers. It is contrary to our explicit instruction, and we were not aware of the agency’s decision until after the guides hit the papers. Nonetheless, it was made for a publication that bears our name, and as CEO I take ultimate responsibility for it.

For that reason, I have apologized to the NNPA and promised their leadership this will not happen again.

We have also let the agency know that we will not tolerate their abuse of the trust the NAACP has placed in them, nor that which Black community newspapers place in the NAACP.

Before next year’s show, this contract will be put out to competitive bid and we will only contract with an agency that can guarantee they will use Black community newspapers.

If this company wants to do business with the NAACP again, they will need to make things right with Black community newspapers in the markets where the guide was distributed, and convince us they are capable of keeping their word.

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