In 1897, the co-founders of the newspaper decided to expand their already successful newssheet into a weekly newspaper. The earliest existing issues of the Recorder dates to 1899—the year Porter sold his share of the newspaper to Stewart.Realizing the importance of local news, Stewart captured that market, outdistancing his local competitors, the publishers of the Freeman and the Colored World. With its emphasis on local news, the Recorder set itself apart from other Black newspapers. It had an immediate and an enduring impact on the Indianapolis community. Though the focus of the newspaper was local people and events, the Recorder also reported national events. It solicited news from communities throughout the state, as well as from around the country. Sales agents, who dually served as local correspondents, sold issues in their cities and hamlets.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the Recorder reported on the work of many community organizations and institutions. It heralded the achievements of individuals in various spheres. The Recorder commented through news stories and editorials on the socio-economic and political climate that affected the daily lives of its community. It provided a forum for advertisers. The newspaper advocated for American support of World War I. It assumed that Black participation would bring better jobs and a better quality of life for patriots and their families.Instead, the end of the war brought an escalation of lynching and race riots, and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. The Recorder and other Black news organs devoted much ink to stories reporting these activities.