Lyn Johnson, the Publishing Editor of the Weekly Challenger, is a true St. Pete native - born and raised. She graduated from Eckerd College with a degree in History, a passion that drives her work at the Weekly Challenger. This local newspaper has been telling the story of St. Pete's African American community for more than 50 years. Lyn Johnson's father, Cleveland Johnson, Jr. co-founded The Weekly Challenger in the '60s, in a time when mainstream coverage of African American news was limited to crime and marriage announcements. When her father passed away in 2001, Johnson's mother took over publishing, and finally in 2012, Johnson took the helm. The oldest and most beloved voice of the local African American community, Johnson fights to modernize the Weekly Challenger and continues to cover the most important stories in the community.
Years in St. Pete
I was born here.
Organizations involved in
I would say a lot of different organizations because I cover so many different organizations. Like the NCNW, I’m there every meeting. Although I’m not an official member but I might as well be. And the NAACP. They ask me what I think because, you know, they want to be in the paper.
What gets you out of bed every day?
My family. My daughter, although she’s an adult now. I’m always trying to be a good influence on her. My husband. And the community. If you look at the history of St. Pete you can see, there’s a dense history. But if you look at the black history, it’s kind of sparse. So that’s what gets me up, basically recording the history of black St. Petersburg.
Why St. Pete?
I don’t know anything else. I love St. Pete. I love the people here. Its a very inviting community and there are actually a lot of different communities in St. Pete and I haven’t had problems with any of them. If I didn’t own the Weekly Challenger, I’d still be here, doing something with history.
What is one habit that you keep?
Oh, I’m terrible at habits. But the one thing I do – I must keep a really good calendar because I have so much going on. In the beginning I was terrible, I would forget or I would show up late. So I have a strict calendar.
Who are some people that influence you?
Goliath Davis, who was once deputy mayor and also the first black police chief in St. Pete. He has basically held my hand with dealing with USF because he’s a professor there now. And he’s opened a lot of doors for me, and he’s very understanding. When I think of him, I think of a father. Because my father’s gone, and he was friends with my father also.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I would say read. There’s just so much information out there. Before, 10 – 20 years ago you had to actually look for content but everything’s out there. If you want to learn about your culture, your heritage, even about your neighborhood, just read. It’s there for the taking.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
That I wouldn’t make any money – that I would be poor forever.
We are trying to get grant funding for making a Weekly Challenger that would be in Pinellas County Schools. It would basically deal with children and what interests them, but keeping it local. Something that will make them read – they read a lot of garbage- but something that can capture their interest and be informative.