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Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Seattle Medium At 50 – Still Pressing On For Our Community

Chris B. Bennett

By Chris B. Bennett

This week marks the 50thAnniversary of the Northwest largest, most read, most widely circulated, and most influential African American newspaper – The Seattle Medium. On Jan. 15, 1970 The Seattle Medium distributed its first edition throughout Seattle and ushered in a new era of advocacy, narration, truth telling, journalism and activism for the local African American community.

Over the years, the names and the faces may have changed but the passion to support and chronicle the achievements of our community, and to offer an alternative narrative to issues affecting our community remains the same.

Founded by my father, Chris H. Bennett, on what he describes as $30 and a prayer, The Seattle Medium’s mission has always been to “help improve the quality of life in the African American and other disenfranchised communities in the Pacific Northwest.” While he is not as active in the day-to-day operations of the newspaper as he used to be, Chris H’s DNA and commitment to the community through service is interwoven throughout the fiber of the paper. The community service efforts of the newspaper speak volumes of our commitment to our community both in and out of the state — raising millions of dollars for disaster relief, including the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to name a few, and raising scholarship funds for young men and young women to attend college. In addition we’ve utilize our media resources, including those of our radio stations (1420 KRIZ/1620 KYIZ), to collect thousands of coats, tons of food and many, many toys for the less fortunate in our community on a yearly basis.

Like many institutions in our community, some people might not realize the treasures that we have in our community until they need them or they are gone. Fortunately, The Seattle Medium is still here, and there is a very long list of people who are glad that we were here when they needed us. Growing up in the newsroom, I’ve heard many stories and conversations about things that were taking place in our community. The notion that some people will call The Seattle Medium before they call 9-1-1 is something that I’ve witnessed time and time again, and still amazes me to this day. However, I can proudly say that many issues, problems and situations have been resolved through efforts of someone on our staff, particularly Chris H. Bennett, that never made it into the pages of the newspaper. In fact, I would say that about 85-90 percent of the calls that we receive and the people that we help never make it into the paper as news because at the end of the day its not about sensationalism and trying to sell a few papers at the expense of people in vulnerable positions, but its about serving our community and helping those who are not in a position to fully help themselves at the time.

I wish that I could take credit for much of the success of the newspaper, but I cannot. We all live on the shoulders of those who have come before us and I’d be remised if I did not mention the names of people like Cora Vaughn, Pat Fisher, Connie Bennett Cameron, Michael Calloway, Robert Pickens, Al Anderson, Priscilla Hailey, Larry Williams, Thomas Williams, Barbara Laners, Betty Anderson, Joan Owens, Juanita Smallwood, Vanessa Lichty, Kola Lawal, David Bash, Angela Jenkins and others who helped create a rich legacy for the paper that continues today.

Over the last 50 years, and particularly in the last 15-20 years, the newspaper industry has gone through some major changes. The cost of newsprint continues to rise, the plight of the dailies continues to cast a dark cloud over the industry, despite the fact that many community newspapers are seeing growth in readership. The digital era has many papers across the country trying to establish a new business model, and the attack on the media by the current occupant of the White House, who imposed a tariff that increased the cost of newsprint by 30%, are obstacles that all of us, including the Black Press must overcome. But we are still here, still standing and still fighting for freedom, justice and equality shoulder to shoulder with other leaders and institutions in our community.

People often ask me what they can do to support the paper, and my response is very simple. You can do any, all or any combination of the following: pick up a copy of our paper every week, support our advertisers, purchase a subscription, visit our website at least three times a week, share our stories via social media, advertise your event or business with us and/or encourage others to do so, tell people what you read in The Seattle Medium, share the paper with others, and most importantly keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to speak truth to power, tell the stories that would otherwise go untold, and continue to be that voice for the voiceless, the hopeless, the least, the last, the left out, the cut out, the pushed out and those who appear to be invisible to the rest of society.

The Seattle Medium is proud to have received the unwavering support of so many people in the community over the course of our first 50 years. At the end of the day, The Seattle Medium is a business and without the support of the community we would not be here today, and that’s why it is important for us to be that voice, that beacon of hope, knowledge and wisdom for those who rely on us to continue to be “The Message From The People… To The People.”

Am I proud to be a part of this 50-year legacy at The Seattle Medium? You Bet I Am!

Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!

Must Read

Podcast: The “Sounds Of Black Folk” Event

Rhythm & News interview with Rev. Leslie Braxton about the upcoming Sounds of Black Folk event to take place June 18th at the Paramount Theater. Interview by Chris B. Bennett.