After 2 Months, Pearl Stewart Is Out As ‘Chicago Defender’ M.E.

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Pearl Stewart — the pioneering black female editor whose hiring in January was seen as a coup for the Chicago Defender — is resigning as managing editor of the black-oriented daily.

Stewart’s resignation is effective March 15, according to a statement issued Friday by Defender Executive Editor Roland S. Martin. “In the event the position isn’t filled by that date, she has graciously agreed to continue until we find her replacement,” Martin said.

Stewart, who works Sundays through Thursdays at the five-day Defender, was not in the historic newspaper’s offices Friday, and there was no immediate response from voice mail messages left at the two listings for a Pearl Stewart in the Chicago telephone directory. She did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Martin declined to comment immediately, saying he wanted to let Stewart characterize her departure.

The Defender, which was sold to Real Times LLC by the estate of founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott’s nephew in January 2003 after a prolonged period of drift, has been in a sometimes turbulent turnaround since the arrival of Martin as editor last year. Working with a skeleton crew, he introduced eye-catching graphics to the tabloid, and brought focus to a newshole that had been virtually unedited for years. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Angelo Henderson serves as an editorial consultant for the daily and its sibling weeklies.

Stewart, who started work Jan. 3, was another high-profile hire. In 1992, at The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, she became the first black woman to be the top editor of a metro newspaper. Immediately prior to becoming managing editor, she was director of career development and an instructor at Florida A&M University?s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.

In its ad for a replacement for Stewart, the Defender said it is looking for someone with “previous editing experience, strong leadership and good organization skills, good news judgment and the willingness to take the look of the paper to the next level.” Candidates are asked to contact Martin at the paper or by email to rmartin@chicagodefender.com.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Angelo Henderson was recruited by Martin. In fact, Henderson began working for Real Times newspapers before Martin’s arrival.

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