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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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At 71, The TSD forges forward from ‘the baby’ born in 1951

Relying upon the calculator in my cellular telephone, my math registers me as having served as the executive editor of the Tri-State Defender/The New Tri-State Defender for 21 percent of the time that the publication has been serving Greater Memphis, the African-American community in particular.

This week, The TSD – as it now often is called – turns 71, with the first edition of the weekly newspaper having been distributed during the first week of November 1951. Several years ago, I was asked to take on the role of associate publisher and I have labored to fill both aspects of my combined title with TSD’s heritage in mind.

That heritage is anchored in a mission detailed on the editorial page of the very first edition. There – and elsewhere throughout that inaugural edition – is the recognition that the publication was a living entity designed for the people and done so in a way that it was expected to grow along with the African-American community.

The community has grown and so has the TSD, the immense and numerous challenges facing a publication such as this notwithstanding. Today, the TSD is one of the longest, continuously published newspapers serving the African-American community in the South.

In this edition, we take time to acknowledge all the laborers that have contributed to sustaining the TSD, notably beginning with founding publisher John H. Sengstacke and founding editor L.O. Swingler.

Tri-State Defender founding publisher John H. Sengstacke and founding editor L.O. Swingler.

Over the years, several – former editor and general manager L. Alex Wilson among them – literally have put their lives and livelihood on the line in the course of that pursuit.

One year ago, the TSD took special note of its 70th anniversary and embarked on a yearlong recommitment to its beginning. Now, we take time to make a fresh embrace of our intention to continue serving the community that has continued to support us.

To do so, we know that we must push on toward mastering new tools in a changing industry. So many of our readers now access us through our digital portals and we are beefing up our efforts to make sure they have access to the news and information they seek.

The fact that what once was called the community’s “baby” is still about the business of service seven decades later is a testament to the need and its roots.

The front page of the first edition of the Tri-State Defender.

During the build-up to last year’s 70th, Calvin Anderson, president of Best Media Properties, the TSD’s parent company, made this observation:

“In this environment when a number of newspapers are dying, we are celebrating the continuity and strength of TSD in this community and the Black Press in general.”

Thank you for your support. We are working hard to continue to earn it.

(Special acknowledgement to staff at the Ned R. McWherter Library at the University of Memphis for access to digitally archived issues of the Tri-State Defender.)

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