Florida Paper Launches Weekly for Blacks

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(AP) The Gainesville Sun announced it is launching a weekly newspaper aimed at this college town’s east side and its predominantly black population. The Gainesville Guardian will debut Wednesday.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to provide a new media outlet specifically for the East Gainesville community,” said Jim Doughton, publisher of the Guardian and the Sun, both owned by the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group.

Toby Usnik, a spokesman for the Times, said the decision to publish the Guardian was the result of research. “We discovered this area of Gainesville was being underserved,” he said. Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida.

Charlotte Roy, a former managing editor of the black-owned Atlanta Daily World, will be the Guardian’s editor. She has also worked as a writer for the Detroit Free Press, the Capitol Times in Madison, Wis., the Wilmington Morning News in Delaware and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also owned Roy Communications, an Atlanta-based communications agency, and she is a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

The Guardian will have a cover price of 25 cents and complimentary copies will be available throughout the community. It’s initial circulation will be 10,000.

The new edition comes as the newspaper industry searches for new readers and revenues.

Usnik said the Times Regional Newspaper Group also publishes a Spanish-language newspaper, Vision Latina, in Lakeland and regional editions in Ocala and Lakeland.

“This is about growing our reach in the market and we’ll serve advertisers and readers,” Usnik said. “This is consistent with other weekly publications.”

The Guardian is drawing some criticism.

“If the Sun’s goal is to improve substantially the coverage of that community with this effort, that can’t be all bad,” Keith Woods, dean of the faculty at the Poynter Institute, a journalism research and educational center in St. Petersburg, said on the organization’s Web site. “But we come from a history of the ‘colored sections’ and ‘black pages’ and other abominations meant to maintain separation of the races – and it is very difficult not to summon those ghosts with this kind of thing.”

Bryan Monroe, an assistant president of news at Knight Ridder and president of the National Association of Black Journalists, was also somewhat critical in comments to the Boston Phoenix: “I would certainly say that (the Times Company) would have a large hill to climb because they’re coming from the outside.” A recording on Monroe’s telephone said he was out of the office until next week.

Calls to other NABJ officers and the Poynter Institute were not immediately returned.

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