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Black newspaper dynasty gives way to new guard

By Ernie Suggs The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | 3/24/2014, 9:34 a.m.

"Our competition is any other media that would gear ads toward Africans Americans in metro Atlanta,'' he said, "not the Daily World.''

The Daily World prints 5,000 copies a week; the Voice prints 27,000 copies and sends out 80,000 email blasts weekly to drive traffic to its website.

Washington is quick to give the Scotts and the Daily World their props. "For the Scott family to keep this business going for 85 years is a testament to them,'' he said. For decades, he said, the Daily World was "an important voice to get news out about things that were happening in the black community that you probably wouldn't have seen in the AJC.''

But one person you won't find dwelling on the past is Scott herself. She is now vice president of member relations for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Asked if she considered keeping the paper's tornado-ravaged building on the potentially lucrative Atlanta streetcar route, she is exact:

"Nope. I have done my mourning and I came out on the other side happy. I really felt pretty good about leaving. ... Time to move on.''

It all began when William Alexander "W.A.'' Scott II, 26-years-old at the time, opened the Atlanta World as a monthly newspaper on Aug. 5, 1928. Before that, the average lifespan of black newspapers in Atlanta was five years.

By the time the Atlanta World reached that milestone, it had grown into the country's first black daily.

Scott had even bigger visions: He wanted the paper to be an anchor for a nationwide chain. And it was. Scott published 50 papers through the Scott Newspaper Syndicate. Those papers were spread throughout the South and in cities as far west as Phoenix and as far north as Des Moines.

Then, in 1934, W.A. Scott was mysteriously gunned down. His killer was never caught.

Cornelius Adolphus "C.A.'' Scott promised his dying brother that he would keep the empire going. At its height, circulation reached 35,000, with the entire chain reaching as many as 90,000.

The paper took aggressive stances on civil rights and railed against segregation and lynchings. It was the first black paper to have a White House correspondent, Harry S. Alpin, who first started covering Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944.

But over time the tone of the paper shifted toward conservatism and away from the Civil Rights Movement. Paul Delaney, who started working at the paper in 1959, said that as a dedicated Republican, C.A. Scott worked with whites to promote Atlanta's image as "a city too busy to hate.'' He even instituted a policy against putting Martin Luther King Jr. on the front page.

That alienated many readers in the 60s, 70s and 80s and led to the emergence of more radical black papers like the Atlanta Inquirer and Atlanta Voice.

"I had fights with C.A. all the time and eventually, after two years, he fired me,'' Delaney said.

Delaney, who eventually spent more than two decades as an editor at the New York Times, is just one member of an all-star team of black journalists who started at the Daily World and moved on to established mainstream dailies.