The Yellow Journalism of the Atlanta Georgian

One of Georgia’s most notorious newspapers, the Atlanta Georgian, began publication in the early twentieth century. Along with editor John Temple Graves, Fred Loring Seely established the daily publication in 1906 to compete with the city’s two leading papers, the Atlanta Constitution and Atlanta Journal. During its first months of publication, the paper prominently featured often-unsubstantiated stories of Black men attacking white women. The coverage inflamed racial resentment among the city’s white population and resulted in the Atlanta Race Riot in September 1906. Over a three-day period, mobs of white men assaulted hundreds of Black men, murdered dozens, and vandalized Black-owned businesses and homes. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst purchased the paper in 1912. Under his son’s leadership, the paper adopted the practices of “yellow journalism,” including large headlines, extensive use of photography, and loose journalistic standards. The purpose of these sensationalist practices was to attract reader attention and increase sales. The Georgian employed these tactics in an attempt to commercialize the 1913 Leo Frank murder trial, sometimes publishing as many as eight editions in a single day. In 1924, the paper employed trailblazing journalist Mildred Seydell, who covered the Scopes Trial and wrote for the Georgian’s society page. James M. Cox purchased both the Georgian and the Journal in 1939 and dissolved the Georgian shortly thereafter.