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Maria Saporta WABE

Commentary: Atlanta Inquirer continues tenacious journalism

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

In the early 1960s, the Atlanta Student Movement bubbled up from the historically black colleges on the west side of downtown.

They wanted to be able to eat at restaurants, shop at department stores and not live as second-class citizens.

But their efforts were not being covered by the traditional media. Even the existing black press ignored them – fearing they were too radical and disruptive to the status quo.

John B. Smith Sr. and Jr.

John B. Smith Jr. puts his arm around his father – thanking him for being a great role model (Photo by Maria Saporta)

That’s how the Atlanta Inquirer was born. Several black leaders – including businessmen Herman Russell and Jesse Hill – put their support behind the upstart.

Fifty-five years later, the Atlanta Inquirer is still in print – largely because of the dedication of John B. Smith Sr., who has been the publisher for decades.

The Atlanta City Council recently honored Smith for his tenacity and dedication to Atlanta and journalism.

In an era where journalism has had its challenges, Smith was particularly touched when his son, John Smith Jr., spoke of carrying on.

City Council honoring John Smith

A packed City Council Chambers was filled with fans of the Atlanta Inquirer and John Smith

Xernona Clayton, the first black woman in Atlanta to host a news television show and the founder of the Trumpet Awards – credited Smith and the Atlanta Inquirer for telling the story of the civil rights movement, saying the black community may not have known about it otherwise.

The Atlanta Press Club will induct Smith and the Atlanta Inquirer into its Hall of Fame later this year.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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