The Nubian Message shall be a media representative of the African-American voice for N.C. State, according to the Student Body Constitution. The Nubian Message will be a newspaper publication in which people can learn about different aspects of African-American culture, as well as other cultures. The periodical will be a source of useful information for all students by reporting on events that will appeal to the NCSU community.
‘Nubian Message’ formed out of desire for change
By Derek Medlin
The Nubian Message—the African-American student newspaper formed out of extreme frustration and desire for change—has now served as the voice of African-American student life and culture at the University for more than 15 years.
Much has changed since black students rallied in the Brickyard in late September of 1992 to call for the formation of a black newspaper.
The University has seen four different chancellors, Centennial Campus has exploded into one of the best research campuses in the country and NCSU has become the largest university in North Carolina by more than 3,000 students.
When the first issue ran Nov. 30, 1992, few on campus or off could have predicted the successes and failures that the publication would have in the decade to come.
The events surrounding the formation of the Nubian Message are something that students on campus at the time, whether black or white, remember vividly. Early in the school year at both NCSU and UNC-Chapel Hill, African-American students protested and lobbied for Administration at both institutions to build ‘free-standing’ cultural centers that could expand knowledge and understanding of African American culture.
The Black Awareness Council, a student group at UNC, led the charge in Chapel Hill, calling for a permanent stand alone building that could be used for the study of African-American culture. Students at NCSU did the same, claiming that administration in Raleigh had promised the building of a cultural center in 1987, a fact which campus officials never disputed.
With these calls for cultural awareness as the backdrop, the actual event that set in motion the formation of the Nubian Message came on Sept. 23, 1992 when the Technician ran a controversial column by Steve Crisp. In his column, Crisp called the activists at UNC racist and bashed the rally which had taken place in Chapel Hill. The response to this statement by black students in Raleigh was nothing less remarkable.
The next day, Sept. 24, some 200 students rallied in the Brickyard to protest Crisp’s column, even burning copies of the Technician. Greg Washington, a leader of the Brickyard protest in 1992, summed up his feelings about what should happen within Student Media with a fairly simple phrase.
“We need a black paper on this campus that will give coverage to a black perspective,” he said.
On Nov. 30, 1992, that “black perspective” was formed and the dreams of black students were realized with the paper’s first issue. In that first edition, editor-in-chief, Tony Williamson, said the formation of the paper had been something way over do at the University and also spoke about the goals of the newspaper.
“The Nubian Message should and will be the voice for African-Americans at N.C. State,” he wrote. “It will be a publication in which people can learn about different aspects of our culture, as well as find out useful information about campus.”
The Early Years
The first few years of publication at the Nubian Message went well, some might say even better than initial expectations on campus. After a probationary period, the Nubian Message was accepted with full rights into the Student Media Authority on March 9, 1994. The paper had been born, successfully printed for over a year, and was officially recognized by Student Media.
In the Special 75th Anniversary Edition of the Technician, printed on Feb. 1, 1995, Editor-in-chief Joe Johnson called the formation of the Nubian Message a positive addition to campus.
“I thought it was good for campus to have another outlet that appealed to that segment of the student body,” he said. “They didn’t view us as being adversaries.”
The early goals of black student leaders like Greg Washington, Chris Smith and initial Nubian Message editor Tony Williamson had come true. NCSU had a permanent, fully functioning African-American led newspaper that had goals of covering African-American events and culture on campus and providing black students an alternative media source.
Bumps in the Road
As with other student run groups on campus, the Nubian Message had had its problems since its inception in the early 90s. Budget concerns, problems hiring and retaining staff, concerns over accurate reporting and even a tragic death hampered the success of the Nubian Message.
Shortly after the Nubian Message was accepted into the Student Media Authority early in 1994, its first editor, Tony Williamson died tragically from a blood clot in his lung while visiting his home in Virginia. The student who had seen the dreams of African-American students come true with the formation of the paper would not be able to finish his career at the University helping to make the publication better.
Perhaps the most common and re-occurring problem that has plagued the Nubian Message has been the hiring and retaining of staff. There have been many times throughout the publication’s 15 year history when it has had trouble maintaining a full staff.
More often than not the responsibility of both writing and producing the paper has fallen on the shoulders of the editors, leading to stints that saw the Nubian Message take breaks in production for several weeks if not entire semesters.
The other, more glaring problem which the Nubian Message has had to deal with has been accusations of plagiarism during 1998 and 1999.
The News & Observer faxed NCSU on Nov. 11, 1998 to inform the University of a story which the Nubian Message had copied word for word from its publication. The next year the Nubian Message would come under fire again after two stories were alleged to be improperly printed. One story had been copied from a book while another had been reprinted from a previous edition.
At the time of the allegations, Editor-in-Chief Dock Winston, who did not deny any of the alleged wrongdoings, came under scrutiny and the Nubian Message was investigated by the Student Media Authority Board of Directors.
A report issued by the Student Media on Oct. 19, 1999 outlined all of the infractions committed by Nubian Message staff and provided recommendations for further actions, including the suspension of the publication for two months and the suspension of Dock Winston for the remainder of that fall semester.
After six years of inconsistency between 1998 and 2004, the Nubian Message got back on track in 2005 with the help of the Student Media and other groups on campus. After several meetings to discuss goals and the future of the publication and to dispel rumors which claimed the paper would be shut down, the Nubian Message moved forward with printing after developing an extensive proposal for its future.
The proposal served as a blueprint for how the newspaper needed to hire and retain staff and reach out to as many students as possible. These included desires to better train incoming staff and also reach out to readers on the Internet. A more consistent production schedule and hopes of improving relationships with advertisers were also goals of the committee.
In the years since, beginning with the leadership of Keitris Weathersbe, the publication has come out consistently, business staff members have developed the infrastructure to sell ads so the publication relies less on student fee monies, and the staff has worked to improve the quality of the product.
The Nubian Message received Best of Show for an Online News Site at the 2012 North Carolina College Media Association Conference
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