The Atlanta Daily World, the oldest African American newspaper in Atlanta, has provided coverage of and commentary on events and issues pertinent to the African American community since 1928. The Atlanta Daily World remained in the hands of one family, the Scotts, until its purchase in 2012 by Real Times Media.
The newspaper, initially called Atlanta World, was founded by William Alexander (W. A.) Scott II, who published the inaugural issue in early August 1928. The paper’s offices were located on Auburn Avenue, the center of the Black business community in Atlanta, where they remained until 2008. Scott’s mission statement, believed to have been published in the first issue, acknowledges the need for a Black media outlet to correct the white media’s frequent portrayal of African Americans as criminals. According to Scott, “The responsibility of a Negro newspaper is to dispense to the public good wholesome information to enlighten our people. . .and to serve as a guide and organ of expression for the community.” In the years after World War I (1917-18), the Atlanta World served as a voice against the Jim Crow laws and lynchings prevalent in the South at that time.
The paper thrived in Atlanta with the support of the city’s Black business and academic communities, in which Morehouse College and Spelman College played a prominent role. Scott sent agents into the Black community to solicit subscriptions, and he generated advertising revenue from both Black- and white-owned businesses, including Rich’s Department Store. In 1931 he began to expand his operations by establishing the Southern Newspaper Syndicate, with affiliates in Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Georgia; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The paper, which began as a weekly publication, increased to semiweekly and triweekly before becoming one of the nation’s first Black-owned dailies in 1932. That same year the paper’s name changed to Atlanta Daily World. The syndicate continued to expand into other cities, and by 1933, when the name changed to Scott Newspaper Syndicate, it operated fifty papers and was one of the largest Black-owned businesses in the country.
Editorship of C. A. Scott
In 1934, at the age of thirty-one, W. A. Scott was shot outside his Atlanta home by an unknown assailant. He was succeeded at the Atlanta Daily World by his brother, Cornelius Adolphus (C. A.) Scott, a maverick who challenged the notion of the Black press as a monolithic voice for the African American community. Under his direction, the paper maintained a somewhat conservative stance, relative to other Black publications, and aligned itself with the moderate wing of the Republican Party. Other members of the family, including C. A. Scott’s daughter Portia, an assistant editor, worked on the staff during his sixty-three-year tenure.
Scott resented the racial demagoguery of white southern Democrats, and during the 1940s the Atlanta Daily World spoke out against the white primary system in Georgia, which came to an end in 1946 through the actions of Primus E. King, who brought a lawsuit against the Muscogee County Democratic Party. The paper also advocated integration of the public schools and led voter registration drives, in addition to covering such areas of interest to the Black community as economics, health care, sports, and religion. No independent circulation figures exist for the Atlanta Daily World, but according to the Scott family, its numbers stood at 28,000 in 1945.
Following World War II (1941-45) the paper and syndicate experienced economic difficulties. Circulation of the Atlanta Daily World declined during the early 1960s, and by 1969 the paper had dropped from a six-day to a four-day publication schedule. By the 1970s the syndicate supported only three papers, including the Atlanta Daily World.
During these years some of C. A. Scott’s editorial decisions, which were often made to avoid losing the financial support of white advertisers, rankled the Black establishment. In the 1960s the paper discouraged students from participating in sit-ins and demonstrations, including those held at Rich’s Department Store, and urged them to resolve civil rights abuses “at the conference table, ballot box, and in the courts of law.” C. A. Scott’s endorsement of Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential campaign confounded some of his peers in the Black press, particularly at the fiery Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier. A rival newspaper, the Atlanta Inquirer, was founded that same year, largely to counteract the conservatism of the Atlanta Daily World.
During the 1980s the paper once again generated controversy by opposing sanctions against companies doing business in South Africa, which operated under a system of apartheid. Circulation continued to decline during this decade, following a national trend among Black newspapers in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. By 2000 circulation stood at 10,000.
Upon C. A. Scott’s retirement in 1997, M. Alexis Scott, a granddaughter of W. A. Scott, was named president and chair of the board of directors. (The board’s five members represented two generations of the Scott family.) Alexis Scott worked for more than twenty years as a reporter and editor with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Cox Enterprises before joining the family business. In 1998 she discussed with Essence magazine the challenges faced by the newspaper’s staff, some of whom were in their eighties, as she brought new technology into the office. Although some of the employees, many of them members of the Scott family, experienced difficulties with such changes, Scott emphasized that her “older employees are a valuable part of my staff.” In 2007 Alexis Scott was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, part of Georgia State University in Atlanta.
In March 2008 the Atlanta Daily World’s historic offices on Auburn Avenue were damaged in a tornado that swept through downtown Atlanta. The paper’s staff subsequently moved operations to the Atlanta Airport Office Park. The following year the paper opened three newsstands at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
By 2009 the Atlanta Daily World was available as both a weekly print and an online publication. The paper used wire services for national and foreign news and a small reportorial staff for local dispatches. The online edition also solicited readers’ opinions of current events and issues, and allowed readers to submit wedding and birth announcements.
In March 2012 Real Times Media, based in Detroit, Michigan, purchased the Atlanta Daily World. Alexis Scott retained the position of publisher.
Awards and Community Service
Throughout its history the Atlanta Daily World has been actively involved in the local community. For more than sixty years the paper administered the Christmas Cheer Fund, which raised money for families in need, and from 1968 to 2007, in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Educators, the paper sponsored the annual state spelling bee.
In 1980 the Atlanta Daily World was named a “historic site in journalism” by the Society of Professional Journalists, and that same year W. A. Scott II was inducted into the Back Press Archives’ Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1996 he was inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Other community awards include the Media of the Year Award from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (2001); the Media Award from the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta (2003); the President’s Award from the Atlanta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (2004); and induction into the Atlanta Business League’s Business Hall of Fame (2008).