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The Black voice of South Florida turns 91

Readying for the new age in media, bringing news to the community

D. Kevin McNeir | 9/12/2013, 9:51 a.m.

When an enterprising immigrant from the Bahamas, H.E. Sigismund Reeves, founded The Miami Times in 1923, he followed the examples of a handful of determined Black men, all intent on “pleading the cause of their people.” Now marking its 91st year in South Florida, the award-winning Miami Times, one of the oldest Black newspapers in the U.S, continues in that same tradition.

Still family-owned, the paper is led today by Rachel J. Reeves, the granddaughter of its founder. In two of the last three years, the Times has been chosen as the top Black newspaper in the U.S. by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. During that same time span, Reeves and her staff have garnered a total of 15 awards for distinction in a variety of categories, including layout and design, general excellence, and best news, faith and family, entertainment and business sections.

The history of the Black press

The Miami Times has developed its own niche of reporting local news – highlighting situations, celebrations, tragedies and the achievements of a Black community that was often overlooked by the white press. Like other seasoned Black newspapers, including The Pittsburgh Courier, The Michigan Chronicle, the New York Amsterdam News and The St. Louis American, The Miami Times has earned its place as the leading Black voice in its community through hard work and a vision, as set forth by its owners.

Garth C. Reeves, publisher emeritus, 93, took over the paper from his father and continued to bring a level of excellence that remains today. He says he was adamant about making sure the truth was always reported.

“If a commissioner was guilty of wrongdoings, we were there to tell the story,” he said. “On the other hand, if Blacks were being treated unfairly or were the victim of character assassination, it was my goal to make sure we got to the bottom of the issue and made our readers aware.”

He would turn over the reigns to his son, the late Garth C. Reeves, Jr. After his death, the current publisher, Rachel J. Reeves, would bring her unique style to the paper.

“The story of the Times is not about me – it’s about my grandfather who had the foresight and courage to start a Black newspaper in the deepest South, my father who built on that legacy and my brother who showed so much potential that he never had the chance to fulfill,” she said. “Eventually my son [Garth B. Reeves] will carry on the family legacy.”

Change comes with a new age of media

Reeves says that the survival of the Black press is inextricably bound to how effectively it serves the community, particularly the faith community. However, with recent changes in the newspaper business and styles of journalism, The Miami Times has had to make several decisions – some of which have been both bold and costly. Perhaps that’s where the current publisher’s son, Garth, a recent Emory University graduate, enters the picture. [Garth is currently in charge of business development for the paper].

“With our decision to solidly enter the stratosphere of social media, we now have a new product – the online edition of The Miami Times,” he said. “We are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and downloading breaking stories. That means we can inform our readers instantly and they can share that news with others. We have recently revised our online format and I believe it makes ours an even more credible news source. But unlike some papers that have gone ‘digital first,’ we will remain a weekly publication that focuses first on our print product. Either way, it’s all about first-rate news coverage that provides insight to our readers about things that matter to the Black community.”