I wouldn’t call it a death watch, but Mark Fitzgerald, Chicago correspondent of Editor & Publisher, has done a heck of a job keeping tabs on the Chicago Defender. It’s not a happy task. The last editor, Roland Martin–who’s still around Chicago as a radio personality on WVON–was a bundle of energy who dreamed big. But Martin left the Detroit-controlled paper months ago, and what has Fitzgerald reported lately?

* In April, that the entire accounting department was fired over a scheme involving paychecks cut in the names of ex-employees.  

* In May, that the new editor, Lou Ransom, had announced “stepped-up deadlines” for the four-days-weekly Defender that might put the freshness of the product in some jeopardy. Ransom said in a staff memo, “Friday, we will put together the Monday paper with provisions made to account for late-breaking weekend news.” (I got a copy of that memo too, but Ransom wouldn’t return my calls to talk about it.) In the same article, Fitzgerald mentioned that the Defender had fired its only full-time reporter a few days before and reported that it was thinking of dropping back to two issues a week.

* On June 28, that nothing new had been posted on the Defender Web site–a Roland Martin innovation–since June 8.

A fresh story was finally spotted a month later, on July 11.