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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sentinel’s New Owner Set To Boost Valley Coverage

Sentinel’s New Owner Set To Boost Valley Coverage By JEFF WEISS Contributing Reporter A San Fernando Valley bureau will be established as part of the plans of the new owner of the Los Angeles Sentinel to improve the flagging fortunes of the publication that is the oldest and largest black-owned weekly newspaper in the West. The family of Danny J. Bakewell, which has purchased a controlling interest in the publication, also plans to set up news bureaus in Inglewood, Lynwood, Compton and Rancho Cucamonga to boost the paper’s 30,000 copy a week circulation. Bakewell also plans to add a business and an obituary section. “My new vision is best described by our new motto: voice of our community speaking for itself. I think it’s very important that we begin to connect the communities where black people have migrated to, the Valley being one of those,” Bakewell said. “At one time, the Valley was seen as ritzy with no black people, but the current reality is that there are tens of thousands of blacks in the Valley that would like to have a newspaper that respects and reports on the issues that are important to them in a way that is fair, just, and from their perspective.” An activist, real estate developer, and the leader of the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade, Bakewell has appointed himself the Sentinel’s, executive publisher, board chairman, and chief executive officer. Jennifer Thomas, the previous owner, will stay on as publisher and executive adviser. The paper was purchased for an undisclosed amount. “There has been a noticeable decline in circulation and the Sentinel has been struggling to locate their audience and maintain readers. I think it’s the result of shifting demographics and the south side’s dramatic demographic shift,” said Kent Kirkton, chairman of the Cal State Northridge journalism department. “It’s an African-American paper and the community has moved, so it’s been a challenge to reach them. In addition, young readers don’t read like they used to.” Loss of circulation The Sentinel was founded in 1933 by civil rights activist Leon Washington Jr. The paper peaked in circulation during the 1960s with about 56,000 copies sold. However, by the 1970s, circulation numbers and profits declined. Bakewell hopes that the addition of several news bureaus and the expansion of the newspaper’s content can infuse it with life. “I think a business section is important because we are a people that are very lodged in business. A business section is important because what our community needs is promotion and we need to know who’s doing what and who we can do business with,” Bakewell said. “We are going to feature African-Americans in the leadership business and promote where blacks can find businesses to do business with. We need to know who our business and community leaders are and what areas they are in. We are adding an obituary section as a matter of recognizing people who have made significant contributions and to celebrate the life of people passing on, rather than to mourn their loss.” Bakewell has built a real estate empire, with properties stretching from central Los Angeles to Pasadena and Compton. A long time activist, Bakewell built the Brotherhood Crusade into one of the nation’s most notable black charities. “We have lots of subscribers right now in the Valley. I go to wherever blacks have and need a cause,” Bakewell said. “The Sentinel is a natural extension of that kind of involvement with things that can promote the health and welfare of our community.”

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