The rollercoaster ride that is the newspaper industry comes with highs and lows. Each passenger that takes the ride ascends a steep climb unsure of what awaits on the other side.
Stephan Broadus, assistant to the publisher at the New Pittsburgh Courier, has been an off and on passenger for almost 30 years. Now as the Courier celebrates its 100th anniversary, he reflects on how the newspaper has evolved since he first joined the staff in 1983.
“The Courier has certainly adapted to meet the changes in the industry over the past few years with the Internet and the advent of new media. We had to adapt to survive,” Broadus said. “One of the things we have had to our advantage is the tremendous legacy of the Courier. We get out here and cover the community as much as anyone else. There was a time when we may have lost our way a little bit, but we’ve definitely restored our standing.”
In the nearly three decades Broadus has been involved with the Courier he has seen employees come and go and an ownership change. Today, his responsibilities range between advertising, editorial and event planning where he now finds himself preparing for the Courier’s main event, the centennial celebration.
“Being one of the most historical Black newspapers in the country, there’s no way to underscore the importance of the centennial and the importance of the Courier to the community and not just the Black community,” Broadus said. “We stand on the shoulders of giants not just at the Courier, but in the Black press. We have to be able to tell our own story. It’s an honor for me to be involved in the centennial and showcase our history.”
When Broadus joined the Courier staff in 1983 as the only employee in the display advertising department, the paper was struggling in a post-segregated society where Black journalists were no longer prohibited from publication in White newspapers and Black readers could get their news elsewhere. During his first 10 years there, he helped turn the Courier around, helping the newspaper win the John B. Russwurm Award in 1987 and contributing to the addition of a weekend edition in 1988.
Throughout the many milestones of those first 10 years Broadus said one event that stands out was the Courier’s decision to endorse President George Bush in the 1988 presidential election.
“We honestly felt that at the time, (his opponent) had made very little outreach to the African-American community and that Bush had a very strong record. It got nationwide attention. A lot of the staff were afraid to come to work. They were afraid there was going to be backlash,” Broadus said. “The day after the endorsement was an exciting day. Bush made sure we were aware of the fact that he knew we had made the endorsement. The Courier’s always had a great deal of independence and has never been in the pocket of either political party.”
In 2003, Broadus returned to the Courier after a 10-year hiatus to find circulation had dropped to 25,000, one tenth of what it was at the newspaper’s height in the 1940s. That same year the paper, along with the Chicago Defender, Memphis Tri-State Defender and the Michigan Chronicle, was purchased by Real Times Media Inc., making it the largest chain of African-American newspapers in the country.
“We have challenges just like any other paper. We’ve weathered the storm quite well, maybe better than some other papers. I can certainly see a bright future for the Courier,” Broadus said. “I think people (within Real Times) are beginning to see we’re all in the same company and the more we begin to share our strengths, the better we’ll do.”
Under Broadus’ leadership, the Courier served as a key sponsor in the creation of the Black Political Empowerment Project, where Broadus served as an original co-coordinator. The newspaper’s community involvement continues today through projects such as the Courier’s sponsorship of Port Authority of Allegheny County’s Spirit of King Awards.
“We always have to look at what we can be involved with,” Broadus said. “We try to be involved in as many community activities as we can but we have to be careful because of our limited resources and staff.”
The Courier also interacts with the community through its 50 Men of Excellence, 50 Women of Excellence, Fab 40 and All City Sports Awards. Originally only lists published in the newspaper, the events honor influential African-Americans in Pittsburgh.
“We wanted to come up with a way to recognize and honor influential people in the community. They allow our readers an opportunity to nominate people. It allows us to recognize the excellence of men, women and young people who would not be recognized any place else,” Broadus said. “We recognize the City League athletes every year, which is something that is extremely important. We’ve been fortunate to have speakers like Franco Harris, Charlie Batch and Dwayne Woodruff.”