Names like Ida B. Wells, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and Emmett Till were called out in front of The Chicago Defender offices Wednesday as the community paid homage to the historical paper where the esteemed writers contributed their journalistic talents and the story of the murder of the young Black boy was first told with graphic pictures of his corpse. July 10, 2019, was another historic day for the iconic publication—it marked the day of the last regular print edition of the paper. Last week, the paper, owned by Real Times Media, announced it would print its last regular edition in an effort to focus solely on digital publishing. Special print editions will still be published but not weekly.
The last regular print edition was celebrated as community members, supporters, media, and Defender staff gathered outside at 4445 S. King Drive, scooped up the final regular print edition, took pictures in front of the building and reminisced about the paper many of them grew up reading. Through its 114-year history, the paper reached across Chicago and deep into Southern States, offering a glimpse of hope and opportunity to those who dared participate in the Great Migration and come North. It also exposed atrocities in the country, such as the Till case. On Wednesday, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder and President, Rainbow Push Coalition, shared stories of the paper as students from Columbia College and local television stations listened in and interviewed him and Dyanna Knight Lewis, Defender Vice President.
Even while community members held up phones showcasing the new digital edition, nostalgia reigned as others recalled how they read the paper daily when growing up. One sentiment however captured the true essence of the change; one community member said the move to total digital publishing was like turning in cassette tapes for CDs and then trading those in for the streaming services now available for music. The same good music is available; it is just in a different mode. And likewise, It’s a new day at the Defender and the historic paper will now live on through the technology of the digital age.