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Is The Informer Being Blacklisted Because of its Black Readership?

Fightback.org | , Pete Tucker | 9/14/2012, 10:36 a.m.

"If the Washington Informer Newspaper can be disqualified because it appeals to a specific ethnic group, a similar disqualification can be leveled against the Washington Times, which some subjectively argue appeals only to a certain ideological group," The Informer noted in its protest to the D.C. Contract Appeals Board. "In truth and objectively, neither newspaper should be disqualified for such a reason, not permitted by law."

Since its founding in 1964 by Calvin and Wilhelmina Rolark, the parents of the current publisher, Denise Rolark Barnes, The Informer has distinguished itself as a community newspaper, according to speakers at last month's rally. While rooted in the African-American community, the paper is not just for blacks, said Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers' Union. "They did not name it The Washington Black Informer. They did not name it The Washington White Informer... It is a newspaper for all of Washington," said Saunders.

"This has saved my life," Trayon White said as he held up a copy of The Informer. Things could have turned out very differently for the 28-year-old were it not for The Informer. White said he was kicked out of high school for having dreadlocks and was only reinstated after The Informer published his story. After graduating high school with honors, he went on to college and now serves as the Ward 8 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education. "We need black press," he said at the protest.

Publishing the government's legal advertisements has always provided community newspapers with needed advertising revenue. At a time when newspapers are folding in frightening numbers that has never been more true than today. Yet the Office of the CFO is directing $33,000 in precious taxpayer dollars not to a community newspaper like The Informer, but to the right-wing Washington Times, a paper owned by the family of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the recently deceased billionaire religious zealot who made his fortune through questionable dealings.

"That the Office of [Contracts] would award the contract to The Washington Times - a newspaper whose ownership does not live in or operate in the District of Columbia - is disappointing," Wells wrote in a letter to the Contract Appeals Board's Chief Administrative Judge Marc Loud. While ads in The Times have already started running, the Contract Appeals Board has yet to rule on the matter.

In an email to supporters the day after the rally, Denise Rolark Barnes said, "Clearly this fight is not over."

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