The Daytona Times has put out more than 2,100 consecutive weekly issues. In roughly 41 years, the Black owned newspaper has never skipped a beat. The building that houses the offices of the Daytona Times, Florida Courier and WPUL-AM 1590 / FM 100.7 radio station was allegedly set on fire deliberately last week. Both papers and the radio station have been owned by the family of the late Charles W. Cherry, Sr. for more than 40 years and in a moment, all of that history was threatened. Even so, the Daytona Times will continue its streak unbroken: nothing stops.
The blaze was allegedly set by an arsonist in broad daylight on Wednesday afternoon. As the Florida Courier reports, a preliminary inspection of the building indicated intentional damage was done to external equipment, critical to broadcasting the radio station. The apparently deliberate damage to the station’s outside equipment took WPUL’s signal off the air, temporarily: the FM signal was broadcasting again only a few hours after the fire started, the AM signal is still being repaired. Significant fire damage was done to the first floor and smoke damage to the second floor of the building. No one was in the building at the time of the fire.
Both papers will still go out on time, this week. For Charles W. Cherry II, however, the greatest damage wasn’t done to the building, it was much more personal: “The most important thing to us is the fact that we had 30 years of bound volumes of the Daytona Times and about 15 years of the Florida Courier stored on the second floor. They survived, but with smoke damage. There’s too much smoke residue right now to see what can be salvaged,” he said. As for a motive, Cherry has a few ideas. “Both our newspapers are unapologetically Black. We’ve made people angry, both locally and statewide over the years through our newspaper articles and opinions as well as our radio broadcasts.”
Journalism has always been a dangerous profession and Black journalism, in particular, can easily attract the worst of human instincts. One of the best known cases was in 1892, when the office of the newspaper that Ida B. Wells co-owned was destroyed and her co-editor was forced to leave town. Her crime was shining a light on lynchings. While the investigation must continue to play out, it is not inconceivable that this latest incident was fueled by hatred. Even so, as Cherry said, “If somebody was trying to stop us, they can’t. Both newspapers will come out on time this week.”