VOL. 132 | NO. 211 | Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Publisher of New Tri-State Defender Dies
By Bill Dries
Bernal E. Smith II, president and publisher of The New Tri-State Defender newspaper, died Sunday, Oct. 22, at his home, according to Smith’s family.
Smith, 45, oversaw the resurrection of the legacy African-American owned newspaper starting in 2010.
Smith came to the helm of the newspaper from a career in finance as special assets manager of Bank of Bartlett, a vice president of the Greater Memphis Chamber and vice president of community and economic development of Hope Community Credit Union.
At the New Tri-State Defender, he became a voice on such issues as the future of Beale Street, police misconduct and the Black Lives Matter movement, minority business development and white flight’s impact on economic development. He also deepened the newspaper’s reporting on local issues.
“The New Tri-State Defender and its management board is devastated,” said associate publisher Karanja Ajanaku and Calvin Anderson, president of Best Media Properties, the parent company of The New Tri-State Defender.
“We learned late this afternoon that Mr. Smith had passed,” the written statement added. “We extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family.”
Smith was a frequent panelist on reporters’ roundtable segments of the WKNO/Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.”
“It’s such a tremendous and shocking loss,” said Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, who hosts “Behind The Headlines.” “Bernal was a tireless advocate not just for The Tri-State Defender and not just for local journalism, but for so many issues he cared about in Memphis. It’s a loss on so many fronts and in so many ways.”