How the Richmond Free Press strives to empower its readers: ‘Our community needs us’

"The Free Press is and was designed to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 05, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- It’s been more than 28 years since Raymond Boone Sr. created the Richmond Free Press with the goal of empower its readers.

"The Free Press is and was designed to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Raymond Boone, Jr., son of the late founder.

The inaugural edition was released on January 16, 1992. They printed 25,000 copies, according Raymond Jr.’s mother and Richmond Free Press publisher, Jean Boone.

"First one came out on a Thursday and Ray (Sr.) said to me, ‘so how we looking for next week?’ I was like, Oh My God! This is going to go on and on and on, and it has," said Jean.

It has also grown exponentially in readership by sticking to an idea that originated from the weekly paper's start.

"We're a newspaper that targets the African American community, but at the same time, we're a newspaper for everyone," Jean said.

Jeremy Lazarus seconds that notion. He is one of about 15 dedicated writers. Lazarus joined the paper in February of 1992, weeks after its inception.

"By working here, I was able to cross lines in this community that I would never have done previously," said Lazarus.

Over the years, it has also shown the senior reporter the impact the paper has had on the community.

"Just being part of an institution that seeks every week, to present a different point of view to the community, to bring them stories they might not see otherwise,” said Lazarus.

At their downtown office headquarters, papers are piled up everywhere.

From the front desk, to their archive room, you can see all the articles that were written to hit the streets and online every Thursday. Proving their longevity in an industry where weekly newspapers are a dying breed, especially among black newspapers.

"What I think about every time I walk into this building is making the task an accomplished one. We have to fulfill the agreement to the community. Our community needs us," said Boone Jr., who is also the Free Press Vice President of New Business Development.

"You’ve got to have exciting, interesting format and stories. They can't be dull, and they can't be long and drawn out," added Jean.

It's what the Boone family says the paper's founder Raymond Boone, Sr. wanted to see with each edition.

Boone Sr. passed away in June of 2014 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, but his wife and son say they're here to carry on his legacy.

"We try like heck to at least stay with the level that he left us with. On his dying bed he was writing editorials. He was dictating editorials. He was fearless and dedicated,” said Boone.

"In a so-called paperless society, that's a big goal. We want to still be around ten years from now, twenty years from now, thirty years from now,” said Boone Jr.