The Memphis Tri-State Defender has gone through a lot of changes recently. In June, former Commercial Appeal reporter and editor Karanja Ajanaku assumed the executive editorship. Ajanaku avoids disparaging remarks about either his previous employer or Tri-State predecessors, though he acknowledges that he brings much-needed energy to his new job.
The Tri-State also recently moved into a new office overlooking W.C. Handy Park on Beale Street, where its first office opened in 1951. — Preston Lauterbach
Flyer: Tell us about your experience in local media.
Ajanaku: I spent 14 years as a reporter, starting out general assignment. I got to see the world and find out who I was. I covered City Hall in the late '70s and early '80s.
How did you view the Tri-State defender when you worked for The Commercial Appeal?
My interest in the Tri-State is longstanding. I came down here to volunteer. I wanted to help. That editor, for whatever reason, wasn't able to have that conversation with me but later claimed that the African-American reporters in town didn't find any way to contribute to the Tri-State. I thought, These two points aren't hooking up.
What do you see as the role of black media in Memphis?
I see myself as an agent of change. Part of the job of being an executive editor of this paper is to effect change in the community. I intend to do that. We have to eliminate ethnic hatred. That's the number-one thing that we have to do in this town.
How does the tri-state deal with the issues facing print media with declining circulations?
It's no secret that the Tri-State has to increase its circulation. But if you're delivering a relevant product — as it was in the past — you will serve the community and be profitable, and that's what I intend to do.
We have to be able to communicate, to advertisers first of all, that we can penetrate the African-American community deeper and on a broader level than [other media] in this town. Real Times Media is interested in doing what it can for us to be relevant today — to pick up from the glory days of the African-American newspaper.