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Amsterdam News introduces new size

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Special to the AmNews | 9/7/2011, 4:04 p.m.

Today, the New York Amsterdam News marks another milestone of progress in its 102-year history with the introduction of a new printing process. The paper you're reading is smaller in size, but is a higher quality product, easier to carry and fully loaded with color throughout.

What doesn't change is our dedication to telling the stories of our neighborhood as well as important local, national and international stories affecting our community.

This new look is just the latest in a series of progressive changes that the paper has undergone. Here's a brief look at its storied history.

The New York Amsterdam News began with $10 and a dream. James H. Anderson started the paper from his home at 132 W. 65th St. with six sheets of paper and two pencils.

The first issue had late news, display ads, two pictures, a biography of Anderson, two columns of news clips from other Black papers and a full editorial column urging the public to support the new paper. It became one of 50 Black newspapers in the country and was sold for 2 cents a copy.

After just seven months, the paper had outgrown Anderson's Murray Hill digs. He moved it to Harlem at 17 W. 135th St. It would move two more times before finally settling at its present location, 2340 Eighth Ave.

The paper matured, broadening its reach from local to national and cementing its position as a leading voice in Black affairs nationwide. It also became the largest weekly in the country.

On June 30, 1926, the paper increased its size from its previous eight to 16 pages to 20 or more pages. It also went from 3 cents a copy, "the smallest price per copy known to Negro journalism," to a nickel.

The Amsterdam News marked another milestone by becoming the second newspaper to be admitted to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Then, in 1936, it became the first Black newspaper to be unionized in all departments.

On Dec. 4, 1945, it changed in size from a broadsheet to a smaller tabloid format. This was a bold move. Readers were encouraged not to miss what was then a historic edition.

Times were tough and money was tight. The Amsterdam News was bankrupt, but glory days lay ahead. A group of Black doctors, including Dr. C. B. Powell, a specialist in radiology, and Dr. P. M. H. Savory, each paid $2,500 for ownership of the beleaguered newspaper, making it even better. It featured editorials from Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Roy Wilkins and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Powell announced in 1971 that the paper would be sold to the Sutton/Jones Group, which included Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, attorney Clarence B. Jones, the Rev. Carl B. McCall, Wilbert Tatum and attorney John Edmonds. Under this ownership, the paper focused on appealing to the changing tastes of Black New Yorkers.

On Oct. 6, 1973, publisher Clarence B. Jones announced that the paper would go from eight columns to six. Color was added and print quality was vastly improved. Editorially, the paper promised to speak to a new, affluent, sophisticated Black audience.

"The Amsterdam News talks to this new Black person. Peer to peer. We respect their militancy, aspiration and dreams as no white publication can," Jones' editorial said.

On Jan. 27, 1979, publisher John Procope announced another size conversion and, more importantly, a change in editorial direction, focusing more on the metropolitan New York Black community and the growing affluent Black middle class. The nation's largest Black weekly would set the pace for some 300 other Black newspapers.

In 1982, Tatum took over the editorial leadership of the paper and had multiple roles, including, editor, publisher, chairman and chief executive. The paper pushed buttons by defending Tawana Brawley after her attack hoax, printing the name of the Central Park Jogger who was raped in 1989 and running a weekly editorial on the front page titled "Why Koch Should Resign."

Tatum's daughter, Elinor, succeeded her father as editor in 1996 at the tender age of 26. Wilbert Tatum died in 2009.

Today's edition is another important piece of Amsterdam News history. We hope that you'll continue to enjoy the nation's oldest, continuously published Black newspaper as it takes this latest step into the future.