The Norfolk Journal and Guide evolved from a fraternal order publication known as The Lodge Journal and Guide to become one of the leading black southern newspapers. When P.B. Young Sr. purchased it in 1910, it was a four-page weekly with a circulation of 500. By the mid-1940s it had been expanded to 32 pages and circulation was over 80,000.
Young served as The Guide's editor and publisher until his retirement in 1946. Family members assisted him with the paper during this period. In 1929 his eldest son P. B. Young Jr. joined the staff, and in 1932, his youngest son, Thomas White Young, began working as an assistant in the business office. Both sons would later serve as war correspondents for The Guide during World War II.
Under the Youngs' management, the paper became one of the nation's top selling black newspapers. Critics lauded it as one of the best edited, best written, well researched, and organized papers of its era. Many well known journalists including T. Thomas Fortune contributed articles to the paper.
The Guide was considered a moderate paper because its position on interracial issues was often presented less militantly than many other black papers. The Guide did not have the same freedoms as did black papers published in the North, and had to rely more on quiet, factual journalism than on sensational "yellow journalism" techniques to improve conditions for African Americans. It often could not denounce social injustice outright since it was so firmly entrenched in the South.
There was a positive side to being labeled conservative. Because The Guide was less militant, it was able to obtain advertisements from both local and national white-owned businesses more readily than most other members of the black press. National, white-owned businesses including Goodrich, Pillsbury, and Ford as well as many local white-owned businesses purchased advertisements in the Guide.
By the 1930s multiple editions of the paper were published, including a national edition and local editions across Virginia including Richmond, Portsmouth and Hampton-Phoebus. The paper also reached Washington, D.C, and Baltimore, Maryland. By the end of World War II The Guide was fourth in circulation among black papers behind The Pittsburgh Courier, The Afro-American, and The Chicago Defender.
The Journal and Guide waged numerous crusades--and some of its campaigns were counter to other black papers. For instance, one of its earliest campaigns was against the Great Migration of the early 1910s and 1920s, a movement which resulted in over one and a half million southern blacks migrating to the North between 1915-1925. Young condemned the mass exodus because it resulted in the loss of the large southern black labor force. He also believed that the South offered just as many opportunities.
The Guide endorsed plans to improve city streets; pushed for better water and sewage systems; and for a reduction in crime in the Norfolk region. In a series of editorials titled "The Dirt Roads of Norfolk" Young advocated for better housing, jobs, and schools for African Americans. During the 1920s, lynching was one of the main issues against which The Guide crusaded. Young also urged blacks to mobilize and vote. In the 1930s, The Guide spearheaded a campaign to raise funds for the Scottsboro boys legal defense, and was one of the few black papers to provide in-depth on-the scene coverage of the court proceedings during the famed Scottsboro trial. It also protested the disproportionate rate of black unemployment and poverty in the country. During the 1940s the paper also pressed for integration in the defense industries and the War Department.
When Young Sr. died in 1962, his son Thomas White Young took over the management of The Guide. In 1967, however, Young died in a plane crash. The paper was subsequently sold to outside buyers. In 1972 Bishop L.E. Willis, a Norfolk businessman bought the paper. It was then again sold to J. Hugo Madison, a leading attorney in Norfolk, in November 1973. Reverend Milton Reid, a follower of Martin Luther King purchased it in April 1974. In 1987, Brenda Andrews became the publisher.