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PNC Bank Honors Blacks in Media: Walt Elder the First Black Man to Anchor a Newscast in Atlanta

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Ray Cornelius and David Linton
Walt Edler, the first African-American man to anchor a newscast in Atlanta on WSB-TV, was welcomed and celebrated by CAU School of Communication students during his visit to the WCLK Studios

PNC Bank Celebrates Atlanta’s Black History in Media: Walt Elder, a native of Atlanta and graduate of Morehouse College, knew he wanted to be a reporter at an early age. He speaks about meeting a national Black news reporter at an early age. Elder made history as one of the first African-American male anchors in Atlanta. He joins us to speak about his life and career.

I asked Edler about growing up in Atlanta. He speaks about being familiar with the Atlanta University Center because he was a “Spelman College” baby. His nursery school was on campus. Elder was a reader and a curious child. He spoke about attending a private high school in North Carolina.

Elder explains that he didn’t know if he could be a Black journalist because, at the time, there were not many Black-owned media outlets, and most other outlets didn’t hire African-Americans. WAOK was almost the place where a Black journalist could work.

Then as fate would have it at Morehouse College, Elder passed a bulletin board that contained an announcement from WQXI, a White-owned media outlet with radio and television stations. He applied for the position and obtained the job as a reporter for WQXI radio.

Later the general manager at WSB-TV called with an opportunity to report the news. Elder eventually became the morning news anchor delivering the news at 7:25AM and 8:25AM. He shares that he was the first reporter to arrive at the studio every morning. He speaks about Lorenzo “Lo” Jelks, a reporter at WSB. Elder joined forces with Vern Odom and produced “Ebony Beat Journal,” a magazine-formatted public affairs show broadcast on Saturdays.

As one of the first, I asked Elder if he felt the pressure to be perfect and if he ever made a mistake. He explains that he refused to think about the pressure. He also says that he made mistakes, but only he knew. He speaks about the state of journalism and media today. He shared that he often brought stories to his team and that today that doesn’t happen very much.

Today Elder still works in media. He does voice-over work and has appeared as an extra in several productions around Atlanta.