The Atlanta Constitution (morning) and The Atlanta Journal (afternoon) were for many years the unofficial statewide newspapers of record in Georgia. Gavel-to-gavel coverage of the state legislature; field bureaus around the state in the larger cities; columnists such as Ralph McGill, Celestine Sibley, and Lewis Grizzard; and a well-loved Sunday magazine (Atlanta Weekly) knit the state together into a public which discussed issues of statewide importance. The slogan on The Atlanta Journal‘s masthead for many years (“Covers Dixie Like the Dew”) perhaps reveals the newspaper’s “mission statement” to be a source of news and comment for Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and the Southern region. (For further comment on The Atlanta Journal‘s mission, see http://likethedew.com/about/.
Henry W. Grady (1850-1889) was the editor and part owner of The Atlanta Constitution from 1880 until his death at age 39. Grady built the newspaper into arguably the most influential in Georgia. Using the paper’s editorial page and his own skills as an orator, Grady promoted the idea of a “New South,” putting behind its pre-Civil War agrarian-based economy and emerging from Reconstruction with an economy based in industry and manufacturing. Grady spoke to audiences in the Northeast as well, in an attempt to persuade Northern industrialists to invest in manufacturing in Georgia and the region. The University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism bears his name.
The editorial board of each newspaper made the morning Constitution and the afternoon Journal distinct from each other. The editorial voice of The Atlanta Constitution was traditionally “liberal” for a Southern newspaper, personified by its anti-segregationist editor and columnist Ralph McGill, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1959 mainly for his editorial against the bombing of the Atlanta Jewish Temple. Ralph McGill Boulevard in downtown Atlanta bears his name. Eugene Patterson, born in the south Georgia city of Valdosta, became editor of the Constitution in the 1960’s, and his combination of rural Georgia perspective and progressive editorials gave the Constitution a unique voice among major Southern newspapers. Segregationist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox famously nicknamed The Atlanta Constitution “The Atlanta Fish-Wrapper” for its progressive views. The editorial voice of The Atlanta Journal was traditionally “center-right” for a Southern newspaper, creating an on-going back-and-forth debate between the two editorial boards.
Both newspapers were delivered daily to homes and businesses around Georgia, and each published more than one edition every day.