1st Black editor named to lead Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mar 23, 2023, 8:54 AM

Leroy Chapman Jr., the new editor of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, is shown in this undated pho...

Leroy Chapman Jr., the new editor of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, is shown in this undated photo. The newspaper named Chapman its new top editor Thursday, March 29, 2023, making him the first Black editor to lead the Journal-Constitution in its 155-year history. (Tyson Horne/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

(Tyson Horne/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday named Leroy Chapman Jr. as its new editor-in-chief, making him the first Black editor to lead the newspaper in its 155-year history.

Chapman, 52, has worked in journalism for nearly three decades and has spent the past 12 years at the Journal-Constitution, serving as its managing editor since 2021. Publisher Andrew Morse said he’s proud that the newspaper found the best person for the job within its own ranks.

“There’s truly nobody better suited to lead this newsroom,” Morse said in an interview, adding: “He has the respect of the newsroom, he is an innovative thinker, and he has the highest journalistic standard that you could image.”

Chapman will take charge of a news staff that serves more than 125,000 print and digital subscribers as well as about 6 million unique online monthly visitors, according to figures provided by the newspaper. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is owned by Cox Enterprises, a privately held company.

The newspaper traces its history to 1868, when the Atlanta Constitution published its first edition three years after the Civil War ended. One of its most storied editors, Ralph McGill, wrote columns in the 1940s and 1950s that openly criticized racial inequality, eliciting fury and threats from segregationists.

Morse, who became the newspaper’s publisher in January, said it’s significant that the Journal-Constitution will have a Black editor-in-chief in a city known for its diversity. Black people make up 48% of Atlanta’s population, more than any other racial group. And its sprawling metropolitan area has the second-highest number of Black-owned businesses in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Chapman grew up just one generation removed from the segregated South his father and grandfathers knew. His family tree, he said, can be traced “back to colonial America where we were on census reports as property.”

“To now lead a newsroom, which is an important organization in an important American city, and being able to write the first draft of history is an extraordinary moment for my family,” Chapman said. “When I got into newspapers back in 1994 with my first reporting job, I don’t think even my wild imagination would say I’d be sitting in this seat someday.”

Chapman arrived at the Journal-Constitution in 2011 as a front-page story editor and worked his way up to managing editor, the No. 2 newsroom leader, over the next decade. He takes the helm at a challenging time for a newspaper industry that has been steadily shrinking, with regional and local newspapers struggling to find robust online audiences to compensate for advertisers shifting from print to digital.

Morse credited Chapman with playing a critical role at the Journal-Constitution in guiding news coverage on major stories such as an investigation into a critical affordable housing shortage in Atlanta and attempts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. In his new job, Chapman will oversee teams responsible for expanded digital offerings such as emailed newsletters and a true-crime podcast, Breakdown, that’s now in its ninth season.

Before coming to Atlanta, Chapman worked in South Carolina as a government editor at The State newspaper in Columbia and as a columnist and editorial writer at The Greenville News.

He succeeds Kevin Riley, who plans to retire later this year. Riley will remain at the newspaper during a transition period as editor-at-large.

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