Well, this is different.

Quite a bit has changed here at The Tri-State Defender, just since the end of last year. Longtime Executive Editor Karanja Ajanaku retired, and sadly, TSD Deputy Editor Jerome Wright passed suddenly a few weeks ago.

But the changes, as you can see, are much more structural.

Specifically, late last year, TSD leadership made the difficult decision to suspend the weekly print edition, starting in January 2024. The financial realities of print media could no longer be outrun.

And yet The Tri-State Defender is too important of a Memphis institution not to exist. So we are reinventing ourselves. We are reinventing what it means to be an African American-owned news and media source in Memphis, a majority African American city.

It’s very existential stuff. But there are also existential questions. Like: How do you “newspaper” when there’s no paper?


This document is our first crack at answering that question.

Of course, we understand that people get their news online now, and we are revamping our website to better accommodate that. In the coming months, we will unveil a fresh new look and a broader spectrum of contributors and content, while maintaining and elevating our coverage.

But we also understand the nostalgia of reading a newspaper — on PAPER — over a cup of coffee. We know some of our readers much prefer reading something on paper, instead of a screen. So how do we satisfy those readers?

For the month of January, we continued to produce a full-size broadsheet PDF – the same kind we would send off for printing — but we did not print them. You can find those and a whole backlog of TSD news pages by visiting issuu.com/thenewtristatedefender. And on Jan. 25, we published an actual print edition you can find on newsstands now.

But the question came up: If we are going to produce these PDF pages each week, doesn’t it make sense to make it user-friendly? And what exactly would that look like?

Can we change the font away from Times New Roman and make the text bigger? Can we include QR codes, so that people can easily access more content on our website?

And can we publish a letter-sized PDF – one that somebody can actually print out at their homes, offices and churches, and maybe enjoy a cup of coffee while they read?

Thus we arrive at this version of The Tri-State Defender – the Newsletter Edition. It’s designed to be easy to read, easy to digest, and we’ve even included the puzzles section in the back. And we want to hear your feedback.

Let me be clear: This document is not a finished product and the look and feel of this publication is subject to change – based on us learning from mistakes as we grow, and from feedback from readers who care, like you do. It’s a safe bet that this publication will look very different by the Spring, as will our monthly print edition.

But we promise, if you’re willing to give us a little room to experiment, a little margin for error, you will be rewarded with what we’ve always strived to be: A reliable and trustworthy source of accurate news and information, delivered as only African American-owned media can do.

In the meantime, enjoy this edition of The Tri-State Defender – Newsletter Edition. And let us know what you think! Email me at lesmith@tsdmemphis.com.