First black newspaper thrives as print industry struggles

As so many of the nation's newspapers are shuttering, one publication continues to thrive through the decades. The Philadelphia Tribune is the oldest, continuously published black newspaper in the country, now celebrating its 125th year...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

This has been a rough year for print media.

According to, 10,000 newspaper jobs have been lost. Print ad sales fell 30% in the first quarter of the year, and 23 of the top 25 newspapers reported circulation declines between 7% and 20%. More than 100 newspapers have closed, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Rocky Mountain News. Magazines are being hit as well, with the closing of Blender, Portfolio, and even Vibe.

But there’s one newspaper that is standing the test of time. The Philadelphia Tribune is the oldest, continuously published black newspaper in the country, now celebrating its 125th year. It was founded in 1884 as a way for African Americans to speak against injustice.

The Tribune’s current president Robert Bogle, who spent most of his life in the shadow of the Tribune, says “My father worked here, and so i grew up here as a child. I would see the men and women that worked here, in those days we printed out paper right here in this building.”

The press that they used remains in the the building and at nearly 70 years old, is still in working condition.

Father Thomas Logan, 97, who sold the Tribune as a boy said, “Every issue he would have something about the black people and people wanted to read about themselves.” That still holds true today.

Philadelphia native Sam Muelbellieger, says, “It’s really our home base paper that really taps the heartbeat of the African American community and other papers don’t tend to gravitate toward that area. So we have something like a family type of situation with the Tribune.”

Bertha Godfrey, the Tribune’s senior vice president, has been with the paper since 1946. She says that family has always been the backbone of the Tribune.

“It was like a family, we looked out for one another,” she says. “My boss E. Washington Rhodes, if you needed $500, he would see to it that you got it, right out of his pocket. And we didn’t have any money back then. I remember we could hardly make payroll.”

How times have changed. Today the Tribune’s circulation is just over 220,000 weekly. It is published five times a week in Philadelphia and is available every day online.

Yet with the challenges facing newspapers today, many question why the Tribune continues to push on. Robert Bogle believes he knows why: “Because we’re doing today what Chris Perry did 125 years ago. And today, like 125 years ago, that continues to be. And that’s why.”

And he’ll count on that legacy to propel the Tribune for many years to come.