AJC names new top editor

Managing Editor Leroy Chapman to succeed Kevin Riley as editor-in-chief. Riley announced retirement Thursday.
Leroy Chapman, left, a managing editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been named the top editor. He will succeed Kevin Riley, right, who announced his retirement on Thursday.

Credit: BEN@BENGRAY.COM

Credit: BEN@BENGRAY.COM

Leroy Chapman, left, a managing editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been named the top editor. He will succeed Kevin Riley, right, who announced his retirement on Thursday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has named Leroy Chapman Jr. editor-in-chief to replace Kevin Riley, who announced his retirement Thursday.

Chapman, 52, a managing editor, has been with the AJC since 2011. He shepherded coverage of a number of high-profile stories, including efforts to undermine Georgia’s 2020 election results and the court cases of teachers and administrators charged in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

He takes the reins as the AJC is accelerating plans to transform the storied daily newspaper into a 24/7 digital news organization.

”I think that it’s an important moment for this city and Leroy is the right person for this job,” said Andrew Morse, the AJC’s president and publisher. “He shares the vision I have of the AJC as a modern media company. And he agrees that we need to be both essential and engaging in what we cover.”

Morse, a former senior leader at CNN, Bloomberg and ABC News, came to the AJC in January vowing to focus on the AJC’s continued transition to digital formats.

Chapman will be the first Black top editor in the newspaper’s 155-year history.

”In a city where there is such a dynamic and influential Black community, it means a lot to have a leader like Leroy,” Morse said.

Incoming AJC Editor-in-Chief Leroy Chapman Jr. speaks during the AJC Town Hall meeting at Cox Headquarters, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Chapman, a Navy vet, has been a journalist for 28 years. He came to the AJC from The State in South Carolina and lives in Gwinnett County with his wife Dawn. They have three adult children.

The AJC historically has been a forward-looking voice in a forward-looking city that has been a beacon in the South, a role it should always embrace, Chapman said.

”The AJC should stand on the side of what is right,” Chapman said, “and that’s how history is going to judge us.”

Some of the issues debated by the Legislature this year are on the agenda only because the AJC’s reporting brought them to light, he said, like a bill that guarantees tenants the right to a habitable home.

The AJC’s role is not just to report news, but also to provide coverage that can lead to solutions of the region’s problems. Readers will not see a dramatic change under his stewardship, but some elements will get new emphasis, Chapman said.

”We are good at providing you with the most important things happening,” he said. “Sometimes we do not spend enough time telling stories about people and celebrating Atlanta’s big moments.”

For the AJC’s editor to be a person of color is a reflection of the history: the paper’s, the city’s and his family’s, Chapman said.

”My family traces its history back to Colonial times,” he said. “There is an arc from seeing my family on census reports listed as property all the way to this. It is a fantastic American story.”

Riley, 61, will become editor-at-large until his retirement becomes effective later this year. He has had the title of AJC editor for a dozen years — the longest such tenure for a lead editor among the nation’s large metropolitan papers. The son of a police officer in Cleveland, he started his journalistic career as a part-time copy editor at the Dayton Daily News when he was still in college. After school, he was hired for the paper’s copy desk in 1984.

AJC Editor Kevin Riley speaks during the AJC Town Hall meeting at Cox Headquarters, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

He rose through the ranks to become editor-in-chief of the Daily News, leaving after four years to become the AJC’s editor in 2011. Riley is the only person in Cox’s history to be the top editor in both Dayton and Atlanta.

At the AJC, he has overseen work that made the paper a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize in 2017, won three Emmy awards and won the 2021 Edward R. Murrow Award, given for the AJC’s reporting on a decades-old murder that helped free a wrongfully convicted man. Two other wrongfully convicted men were also freed as a result of the newspaper’s reporting during Riley’s tenure.

Riley’s own podcast recounting his experience as jury foreman in a Fulton County double-murder case earned him the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award in 2018. But he believes his finest moment was leading the AJC’s coverage of the pandemic.

”That was an absolute peak of my career in Atlanta,” he said. “We were doing important work at a time when the state and the city needed us.”

AJC’s Leroy Chapman Jr., Kevin Riley, and Andrew Morse are shown during the AJC Town Hall meeting at Cox Headquarters, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Riley, a regular guest on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Political Rewind,” was a juror for the 2019 and the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes and has testified before Congress during an investigation into the impact of social media and large tech companies on local journalism.

Retirement will mean splitting time between Atlanta and a South Carolina beach house.

”I feel like I had the best job in Atlanta, working for the best company and working with the best staff,” Riley said. “This city is an incredible place to come and work. I mean, I met Hank Aaron.”

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