The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, the nation’s fourth-oldest African American newspaper in the country, is celebrating 125 years of being a voice for the community and serving the underserved while maintaining a high level of journalistic integrity.
Not many Black-owned businesses — or businesses in general — have existed for 125 years! This accomplishment is a testament to the Recorder’s significance to the city of Indianapolis — not just the African American community.
What began in 1895 as a two-page church bulletin, created by co-founders George P. Stewart and William Porter, now hails as Indiana’s Greatest Weekly by consistently providing the community with up-to-date local and national news grounded in journalistic excellence.
Stewart and Porter, a local attorney, operated a commercial printing company at 122 W. New York St., which was also the original location of the Recorder. Porter sold his shares of the paper to Stewart in 1899, and the newspaper remained in the Stewart family until 1988 when local journalist Eunice Trotter purchased the company.
After becoming sole owner, Stewart moved to 414 Indiana Ave. in 1900. He moved two more times, 236-40 W. Walnut St. and 518-20 Indiana Ave., before settling into the current location, 2901 N. Tacoma Ave., in 1975.
Despite the oftentimes overt systemic racism of the early years, intimidation via death threats directed at its journalists from the Ku Klux Klan, burglary of its offices, and the hard-hitting economic crisis the Recorder has remained steadfast in upholding the mission encapsulated on its masthead, “preparing a conscious community today and beyond.”
“I joined the Recorder because of its rich culture and unique legacy,” said Recorder Media Group President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Shegog, who began leading the historic media organization in June 2018. “While I’m not a journalist by trade, I understand the power of the written word. Not only does the Recorder hold itself to the highest journalistic standards, but we’re also a voice for the underrepresented — especially in today’s media climate where only a few are heard above the cacophony. We are truly for us, by us.”
George P. Stewart: 1895-1924
In 1895, George P. Stewart and William H. Porter founded the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. Originally a two-page church bulletin with an emphasis on statewide news for African Americans, the Recorder expanded to a weekly publication to encourage the Black community to become more civically involved and stand up for equality.
Marcus C. Stewart Sr.: 1925-1983
As the Indianapolis Recorder continued to expand and include more pages and special sections, it remained a family business under the control of Marcus C. Stewart, the son of co-founder George P. Stewart. During the Marcus Stewart era, the publication covered a lot of issues related to crime and politics in Indianapolis and within the state of Indiana.
Eunice Trotter: 1988-1990
Longtime and respected journalist Eunice Trotter purchased the Indianapolis Recorder in 1988. With Trotter’s journalism experience, the publication began to focus less on crime and more on the positive aspects of the community. Under the leadership of Trotter, the company updated much of the equipment needed to produce the weekly paper.
William G. Mays: 1990-present
In 1990, entrepreneur and civic leader William G. “Bill” Mays, the founder of Mays Chemical Company, purchased the Recorder and saved it from extinction through financial contributions and connecting the publication to key city leaders and organizations. Due to Mays’ reputation in the state of Indiana and throughout the country, he drew a great deal of attention the Recorder, which helped establish major advertising deals for the newspaper. His focus was to ensure the Recorder remains one of the best newspapers in the country while sharing positive and useful Black news with the local community. Although Mays died in 2014, he is still recognized as publisher due to the lasting impact of his contributions and legacy.
Charles Blair: 1991-1997
Charles Blair became vice president and general manager in 1991. He pushed the publication to become more directly involved in the community through initiatives such as circulation promotions, bike giveaways for children and more. Blair also welcomed youth into the company by increasing paper deliveries by children. Under Blair’s tenure, the publication’s circulation increased by 40% and advertising revenue doubled.
Carolene Mays-Medley: 1998-2010
In 1998, William “Bill” Mays asked his niece, Carolene Mays-Medley, to take charge of the Indianapolis Recorder and help bring it back to life as the new century approached. At the time of her arrival, the publication more than $250,000 in debt, and Mays-Medley made the business profitable within one year and enhanced its editorial content. Under her tenure, the building’s structure was significantly improved. Its exterior was painted and the sales associate offices were remodeled. Mays-Medley also instituted better pay for Recorder employees. In addition, full color and specific sections of the paper were introduced during this time. Mays-Medley, who also served in the state legislature during much of her time at the Recorder, also heightened the Recorder’s presence in the community locally and nationally.
Shannon Williams: 2010-2018
In 2010, Shannon Williams continued Medley-Mays’ efforts to develop the Indianapolis Recorder into one of the best newspapers in the country. As a result of her extensive background in journalism and communications, Williams helped carry on a solid company structure while assisting newsroom staff with crafting quality articles on positive and useful news in the African American community. In addition, the Recorder Advisory Council and Recorder Media Group were created under Williams’ leadership. A major focus during this time was placed on electronic media, including expansion of the website and social media platforms. Williams also increased the Recorder’s presence in the community and sought to attract younger readers. In 2011, the Indianapolis Recorder became the first African American newspaper to digitize its archive editions.
Robert Shegog: 2018-current
President and COO Robert Shegog has been instrumental in building continuity across all of the company’s products and amplifying community engagement strategies. He and his team continue to usher in a new era of leadership with the charge to extend the rich legacies of the newspaper and magazine for generations to come.