Chicago Defender shifts to weekly publication

February 8, 2008 3:56:19 PM PST
The one-time daily African-American newspaper in Chicago is going weekly. The Defender is the city's pioneering black publication. It will now be published once a week, starting next week.

All newspapers must change with the times in order to stay afloat. The Chicago Defender is doing just that while building its legacy and maintaining its commitment to the African American community that began more than a century ago.

As Chicago newspapers make cuts and contort to stay profitable in an increasingly non-print world, The Chicago Defender is also making some changes. Starting next week, The Defender will be a weekly, not a daily.

"It is more in-depth articles, try to present more paper as opposed to more papers," said Lou Ransom, Chicago Defender.

The Defender's executive editor says they are actually adding staff to enrich the content and improve distribution of the new weekly. He says there's an advantage for newspapers targeting specific communities.

The defender began in 1905 when Robert Abbott -- for 25 cents -- created what would be a means of communication for African-Americans north and south. Ministers would read it aloud in sermons and barbershops would share the news of Chicago.

Dr. Jim Grossman is a historian and researched the migration north of African-Americans. He says it was The Defender that attracted Southerners to Chicago with news of jobs and growth, and now he says it's The Defender that gives Chicagoans a unique perspective.

"It not only has relevance, but it's essential. Just as people when they're driving in their cars push their buttons and listen to different radio stations to get a different perspective on the news, it's the same thing with newspapers," said Grossman.

The Defender will continue to share the news. The weekly version comes out next Wednesday.

"The black press is committed to just that one community. This is our bread and butter. We know black Chicago," Ransom said.

If the shift seems like a big change, it's not. While this generation may only know The Defender as a daily newspaper, The Defender had been a weekly for its first 60 years.

Another change: there will be more suburban distribution as the suburbs have become more diverse.