The New York Beacon, formerly “Big Red News” was creared in 1976 by William E. Underwood, as a numerology sheet that rapidly grew into a weekly newsletter.
We hold a unique position among New York City’s newspaper readers. Having begun as “Big Red”— a publication that captured the public’s attention for our ability to accurately predict the numbers’ results—we attracted readers from all walks of life, much like the lottery.
Prior to legalized numbers (the lottery) in New York, it was our daily numbers that dictated the superfluous income in the African American communities i.e. we were their Wall Street and local stock exchange.
Families were fed by “Mama” hitting the number for .05¢ cents. Kids were sent to college from earnings garnered from the numbers business, and “Big Red” was established as the guru of the industry, by accurately predicting the numbers result on a printed 8.5 X 11 sheet.
Spiritualists and fortune tellers were the first to request advertising space. Soon our sheet was extended to an 11×14. Within weeks, the demand was greater than our limited space could accommodate, as community organizations requested space for their functions. The escalated requests for advertising initiated the production of a 4-page weekly tabloid edition called “Weekend Big Red”. Quickly we grew to 8 then 16 and eventually 24 pages. We became a full fledged newspaper in 1978.
Our popular publication caught the eye of one of New York City’s popular department stores, Abraham & Straus, followed by E J Korvette, Alexander’s, Sears and other local businesses. In 1981, weekly circulation grew to over 100,000.
In a marketing campaign, then editor, Carl Nesfield, ran a column, “Did your Momma Play the Numbers?” The results were phenomenal. Responses came from all corners of New York City’s communities. From ministers to pimps, judges to jailers, the White House to the school house and from teenagers to seniors, everyone bought and read “Big Red”, most importantly, they looked for clues to hitting their numbers. Our readers could easily find “Big Reds” at “candy” stores and newsstands in their local neighborhoods.
“Big Red” was purchased in June of 1982 by Walter “Ball” Smith Jr. who promoted the medium to the most recognized African American newspaper in metropolitan New York.
In 1983 our newspaper was re-named the “New York Beacon”. The demand for the New York Beacon increased, as a result of its membership in the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which provides access to various writers and reporters on local and national issues.
In 1991 Smith founded the Northeast Publishers Association, which brought together the city’s African-American newspapers under one umbrella “to better serve New York’s communities and to enhance the economics of its member papers.” He firmly believed in the ability of newspapers to preserve the community’s stories.
“You have to say something to the readers,” he said. Adhering to the advice of this civil rights partisan, The New York Beacon reflected Smith’s weekly views, until late 2017 and continues to be the voices of many editorialists. We concentrate on providing general news to the African-American community of New York City and its five boroughs —Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens.
“One thing we can rest assured of is the news that we gather and the news that we present is just as relevant today as it was in the ’80s,” Smith said. “Black newspapers record Black history. That information is still in demand; we just have to deliver it to today’s social media society. We’re trying to keep abreast of the technology of delivering news.”
Walter “Ball” Smith suddenly passed away at the age of 83 in Miami on Nov. 10, 2017.
Through his youngest son, our current publisher Ashley Smith, the New York Beacon keeps pace with modern news delivery methods, by delivering our contents through newsstands sales, websites, email, bulk handouts and social media platforms. Advertising rates are competitive and discount rates are offered for multiple & bundled insertions.