Presidential Candidates Court S.C. Black Newspaper
By Krissah Williams
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Black newspapers have a long history of advocacy, dating back to the founding of Freedom's Journal in 1827 to denounce slavery and push for black people's political rights. South Carolina Black News, published here every week for the last 34 years and distributing more than 50,000 copies throughout the state, is applying the same racial advocacy to its coverage of the tight race for the Democratic nomination.
The paper hasn't officially endorsed a candidate, but managing editor Wendy Brinker admits there is an editorial tilt toward Sen. Barack Obama because he is the first black candidate with a shot at winning the White House. "I guess if one were to read between the lines, it would be favorable for Obama," she said, laughing.
Two weeks ago, the paper's top story was about South Carolina political activist Rick Wade's work for Obama as a senior national adviser. Last week, the paper featured a story about the top three Democratic candidates' plans to visit a local church, and an editorial by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, endorsing Obama.
South Carolina Black News was going to press as The Trail stopped by for a visit, and Brinker was putting together a story on local reactions to the hullabaloo surrounding Clinton's comment regarding the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. needing President Lyndon Johnson to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. All of the Democratic candidates have sought to quell the discussion -- but Brinker is fanning the flames.
"In my mind she has not come up with a credible explanation," she said of Clinton. "I think we have to address it. The die is cast."
Brinker, who is the only white person on the paper's staff, took the helm three months ago. She would not have fit the mold laid out by the founders of Freedom's Journal, who launched the nation's first black newspaper with this motto: "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us."
But she said she has been a political activist for years and worked in the black community. She said her goal is to inform the paper's readership as the presidential race swings to this state where African Americans are expected to make up half of all voters in that primary.
Though Brinker favors Obama, he doesn't have the pages of the South Carolina Black News locked up. Both Hillary Clinton's and John Edwards's campaign have reached out to the newspaper with some success. Clinton's campaign got a front-page story when it enticed Brinker by offering her interviews with poet Maya Angelou and actress Victoria Rowell, who are both backing Clinton. Recently, Brinker also interviewed actor Danny Glover, who is backing Edwards, and is putting together a piece on him for next week's edition.
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