A new day is on the horizon for The Birmingham Times.
Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, more than 50 years after founding the newspaper during the civil rights movement, has sold it to the Foundation for Progress in Journalism (FPJ).
He said the timing was right. “In order for any business to succeed, it must change with the times. It’s no different in the newspaper industry. As a result of this deal, it allows The Birmingham Times to continue to evolve for many more years to come and, in doing so, hopefully attract a greater scope of readership.”
The 91-year-old Lewis will be publisher emeritus. Samuel P. Martin will assume the responsibility of president and publisher of The Birmingham Times. Martin worked as chief advertising officer with the Boston Globe, and is the president and publisher of the Montgomery Advertiser.
Martin said he relishes the opportunity to help grow the historic paper.
“This is not just a paper, but it’s an institution here in Birmingham and we can position it for the next 50 years. We really have a golden opportunity here,” he said. “It has a rich history and loyal readers already, but there is a great opportunity to expand readers in this new media landscape.”
Martin said that while some significant changes are on the horizon for The Times, its role of informing, engaging and empowering the community remains the same.
Barnett Wright will be the executive editor of the paper. He’s a former senior reporter for The Birmingham News and al.com.
FPJ was established in 2013, funded by the Alabama Power Foundation, in part to honor Lewis and the 50th anniversary of the start The Times. The Birmingham-based nonprofit was founded with the goal of promoting journalism to minority students and others who are interested in the profession.
Since its inception, FPJ has placed 10 summer interns with media properties throughout the state. It has also provided a summer training session to more than 30 high school journalism advisers.
The purchase of The Times is FPJ’s most significant move yet to generate more opportunities for student and professional journalists.
“The Alabama Power Foundation is proud to support FPJ,” John O. Hudson III said. Hudson is president of the Alabama Power Foundation and vice president of Public Relations and Charitable Giving for Alabama Power. He is also chairman of the FPJ board of directors.“The Times has been a training ground for African-American journalists for generations, and FPJ is committed to expanding opportunities for journalists to apply their talents at The Birmingham Times.”
Here’s what’s on the agenda the next few months, as FPJ and The Birmingham Times Media Group have several initiatives planned:
- FPJ hosts a fundraiser, themed “Through the Lens,” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 at the newly restored Lyric Theatre honoring Lewis and featuring announcements about the evolution of The Birmingham Times. Sponsors for the event include Regions Bank, Alabama Media Group and Talladega Superspeedway. The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards will perform. Tickets are available at lyricbham.com/events.
- In February, FPJ will open its summer internship program for applications. Students can apply through the communications or journalism programs at colleges and universities across the state. FPJ’s media partners have included Alabama newspapers, and television and radio stations. For information on how a media entity can host an intern or how a college can participate, email [email protected].
- In April, FPJ is planning to partner with Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. for a training session open to journalism professionals and students. The session will take place in Birmingham.
“We have some wonderful things planned,” Martin said. “The Birmingham Times brand and FPJ’s commitment to advancing journalism is a powerful combination that will be a real difference-maker for the Birmingham community.”