McCalla: died last week at the age of 58
The death of The Voice’s publisher, Val McCalla, last week, at the age of 58, may spark a shake-up in the ethnic minority media, according to black journalists.
McCalla, who launched The Voice at Notting Hill Carnival in 1982, died in his sleep of an oesophageal haemorrhage.
He defended his paper ferociously and for many years managed to fight off nearly every competitor that came on the market.
The Voice is still the best-known black newspaper in Britain and has been the subject of a number of takeover attempts.
Its main rival, New Nation, is part of the Ethnic Media Group, which also owns the Asian paper Eastern Eye as well as the Caribbean Times, African Times and Asian Times.
When EMG bought New Nation in 1997, it had also tried to buy The Voice. McCalla made it clear he had no intention of selling his paper.
His death leaves the door open for New Nation and The Voice to be brought under the same newspaper group and may even lead to them merging.
Both papers have had to face increasing competition from the mainstream press, which has smartened up its act on reporting race issues.
This has squeezed the black press, which now puts a lot of attention into its coverage of the black youth culture and entertainment.
Tony Snow, former features editor of The Voice and founder of Britain’s only black news agency Snowmedia, said: "Despite a reasonably large black population in Britain, the black papers are finding it hard to compete against each other while providing the high-quality news and features coverage that a more media-savvy black community is demanding.
"Both New Nation and The Voice manage to put out high-quality products, but maybe it will soon be time for them to join forces."
Mike Eboda, editorial director of EMG, would not comment on the future, but had praise for his former rival. "It’s a very sad day for the black newspaper industry," he said. "Val was a pioneer and anybody who has worked with him, as I have, will have nothing but respect for his achievements."
Staff at The Voice Group were also keeping quiet about speculation, but privately a senior staff member said: "It’s all a bit up in the air here. While everyone is shocked by Val’s death, it may clear the way for some much-needed upheavals in the way the paper, and the black media in general, is run."
Ownership of The Voice Group has passed to McCalla’s wife Linda and insiders fear that she may want to make a clean break and sell the newspaper group.
By Maurice Mcleod