Paper Looks to Downsize its Audience

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Chicago Defender Executive Editor Roland S. Martin wants African Americans throughout Chicagoland to collectively lose one million pounds in the next 12 months. And he says a bunch of those are going to come off him, too.

The “Chicago Defender Million Pound Challenge” kicked off June 3 with more than 500 people in a mass workout. The initiative aims to combat the epidemic of obesity in the black community with a yearlong series of exercise and education events to encourage weight loss and healthy eating.

Founding Publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott famously used the Defender to spark the “Great Migration” of blacks out of the Jim Crow-era South. Martin says, “I’m not comparing myself to Robert Abbott, but I want to use the Defender with that same kind of emphasis in 2006 and 2007, and drive the health debate.”

“I’m participating in this deal,” he tells E&P. “I’ve got a personal trainer, I’m working out, like, three times a week.” So what does the 5-foot-11-inch editor weigh now? “It fluctuates. I was 235 for a long time, then up to 243. Now, 241.”

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