By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor
Karen Carter Richards, the publisher and CEO of the Houston Forward Times, was born in a small town in Arizona; her family moved to Houston when she was just one month old.
“I went to elementary, junior high and high school in Houston. After high school, I realized that I had an interest in the medical fields, so I applied for and got accepted to the DeBakey High School for Health Professions,” said Richards, who serves as 1st Vice Chair of the NNPA Association Executive Board. “I’ve spent my entire life in Houston.”
Fifty-eight years ago, Carter Richards’ father, Julius P. Carter, founded the award-winning, Houston Forward Times.
By 1971, the Forward Times was one of the top three newspapers in Houston. Sadly, that same year, Julius P. Carter died leaving his wife, Lenora “Doll” Carter, to run the family business.
“As a child, I always had to work in the family business,” Carter Richards said. “When I was 7 years old, I had a newspaper route in my neighborhood that my dad set up.”
Carter Richards continued: “My father and mother always said that I needed to learn every aspect of the business…the only thing I didn’t learn to do was run our press.”
The Houston native left her hometown to attend Xavier University as a biology major, but returned to Houston after being homesick and missing and worrying about her mother.
Carter Richards attended college at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Houston-Downtown. Later, she returned to her roots and the family business, following in the footsteps of two publishing trailblazers, her father and her mother.
Carter Richards was about 22 when she surmised that her mother really needed her assistance.
“[My mother] had been running the newspaper by herself since the death of my father in 1971,” Richards said. “I found it very hard to walk away from a business that had taken care of me all of my life.”
For Carter Richards, who took over after Doll Carter’s death in 2010, everything has proven bigger in Texas.
Through hard work and being dedicated to her parents’ legacy, Carter Richards has helped cement the Houston Forward Times as the South’s largest Black-owned and independently published newspaper, carrying on the legacy of her parents.
She’s expanded the newspaper’s mission and has worked diligently to ensure that it remains the most trusted voice for African Americans and all readers in and around Houston.
The Forward Times has been honored with various local and national awards and now boasts a paid circulation of roughly 65,000, according to its website.
“My parents always had a love for the community and I guess it passed on to me,” Carter Richards said, admitting that running the newspaper wasn’t something that she thought she’d ultimately do.
With great power comes even greater responsibility and Richards said that she understands what can’t be broken is the trust and commitment that the Forward Times and other African American-owned newspapers enjoy in the community.
“The Black Press has always been and will continue to be relevant. We are the voice, the true voice of our people,” Carter Richards said. “We have recorded our history for 191 years like no other media could ever do. We have recorded many stories…our celebrations, our injustices and those hidden treasured stories that came from our communities that we have always found value in,” she said.
Serving on the board of the NNPA has been a tremendous honor, Carter Richards said; it’s just another way in which she walks in her parents’ footsteps.
“My family has been a part of NNPA for over 50 years. Both of my parents held positions on the executive board, so I am very proud to carry on that legacy,” Carter Richards said.
Carter Richards also expressed some pride when noting how the Forward Times has adapted to digital formats and the World Wide Web.
Carter Richards said the Web has, in a sense, transformed the weekly into a daily and the Forward Times’ digital and print demographics provide the paper with great coverage. The Houston Forward Times has won the MillerCoors NNPA Merit Award for Digital Excellence multiple times.
Of the more important messages she can relay to readers and others, Carter Richards said that one stands out.
“Support the Black Press,” Carter Richards said. “If you are not subscribing to the Black newspapers in your city, please do it today. No one will tell your story like the Black Press will. There is strength in numbers and we need the support of our community.”
Stacy Brown is an NNPA Newswire Contributor and co-author of “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask: An Insider’s Story of the King of Pop.” Follow Stacy on Twitter @stacybrownmedia.