The owner of Los Angeles’ oldest African-American newspaper plans to buy a competing newspaper that launched in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots, the publications announced Thursday.
Los Angeles Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell Sr. and L.A. Watts Times publisher Melanie Polk said that they were in the “final stage of an exclusive negotiation” for Bakewell Media to purchase the Watts Times, according to an announcement posted at both publications’ websites.’
Danny Bakewell told the Business Journal that he plans to maintain the subscriber-supported Sentinel and advertiser-supported Watts Times as separate weekly publications, but would not say whether they would be repositioned to appeal to different black audiences. Mainstream and niche newspapers alike have struggled in recent years from a poor advertising market and increased competition from electronic media.
The Watts Times “is near and dear to us as the Sentinel is, and we think it has a tremendous amount of potential even in a market that has challenges,” Bakewell said. “Ethnic print media has a big future, but the question is can you hang on long enough to get there.”
Polk is the daughter of two earlier publishers of the Watts Times, a tabloid that started after the violent six-day uprising of August 1965. Currently based in Koreatown, the newspaper’s name changed to the L.A. Watts Times in 1976 as its coverage widened to the entire African American community of Los Angeles County.
“The L.A. Watts Times has been a part of my life since I was very young, and while it is bittersweet for me to move on, it has been my commitment to see that the L.A. Watts Times lives on,” Polk said. Her parents acquired the paper in 1976 from its founders.
The weekly Sentinel, a broadsheet-format paper founded in 1933 and based in the historic Crenshaw District, is one of oldest and most stable African-American-owned papers on the West Coast. Bakewell, a real estate developer and community leader, acquired the publication in 2004.