Brown, a printer/journalist from Wisconsin, had earned a reputation as a crusading newspaper editor since launching the Puget Sound Dispatch in partnership with Charles H. Larrabee in December 1871. At the time, the Dispatch was the only paper published daily in Seattle. Larrabee left the partnership in 1872 and was replaced by one of Brown’s sons, Edward H. Brown. When the younger Brown left in 1874, Beriah Brown continued publishing the Dispatch by himself.
One of Brown’s more notable editorials was a strong defense of civil rights, in response to local opposition to the admission of an African American student to the winter session of the University of Washington beginning in January 1874. Some white parents complain to the Board of Regents for allowing “colored” children to take classes at the university. One “very ardent and active Republican politician” even withdrew his children from the university. Brown insisted that "Every child of African descent born in this country has the same right of access to our public schools as the children of the most privileged of Caucassian [sic] blood. No teacher or school officer has any more legal right to exclude one than the other" (Puget Sound Dispatch).
Historian Clarence B. Bagley described Brown as “a writer of editorials worthy of the greatest papers of other United States.” A friend of famed New York newspaper editor Horace Greeley (1811-1872), Brown was noted for composing his articles as he set them in type, rather than writing them down on paper first. Bagley marveled at this ability. “It is hard to comprehend the difficulty occasioned by the dual processes of thought this brought into play,” he wrote (Bagley, Vol. 1, 192).
Brown continued to publish the paper throughout his one-year term as mayor. While that may seem odd to modern eyes, there is no record of local citizens objecting to their mayor’s dual role as civic leader and journalist. However, Bagley reports that Brown’s business skills left something to be desired. Increasing financial difficulties led Brown to sell the paper to the owners of the rival Intelligencer shortly after the end of his term as mayor.
Brown continued to be involved in both civic affairs and journalism after leaving office. In 1885, he joined the Volunteer Home Guard, an anti-vigilante effort to provide support to law enforcement officers against any mobs that might gather. The next year, the Home Guard was called upon to help restore public order after rioters tried to force Chinese laborers (many of whom had come to the area to build railroads) on to ships and out of Seattle.
Bagley credits Brown with establishing the first newspaper in Kent, called the Kent Recorder, founded in May 1889. This enterprise, too, was apparently unsuccessful financially, and Brown sold it within a year.