Carrying the torch

Myiti Sengstacke seeks to keep presses rolling at the legendary "Chicago Defender"

of trustees.

Frances L. Murphy, publisher of the Washington Afro-American, was a friend of John Sengstacke. They traveled together to the Soviet Union as part of a black press group in the mid-1970s. She says Myiti “will have big shoes to fill. John Sengstacke was a tremendous man.

“But Myiti is a young woman and she’s got it in her blood. I think she’ll do very well. She’ll face what every owner faces. This is no 9-to-5 job. Myiti will have to dedicate a large part of her life to it,” Murphy says. “But she’s young so she should have a lot of energy to do just that.”

Myiti Sengstacke has worked with the chain since she was 17-years-old in various capacities, including the public relations and accounting departments, and over the years has written stories and worked on the business side of the various publications. She currently works in promotions, marketing and advertising.

If appointed publisher, pending a vote by the board, Sengstacke says her first task would be to increase marketing for the newspapers and work on boosting their circulation and advertising revenue. Last year, revenues for Sengstacke Enterprises were about $9 million, and the four papers have a combined circulation of approximately 120,000. The Michigan Chronicle is the largest, with a circulation of 48,000, and the Defender, once the chain’s flagship, now has a readership of 25,000. She’ll also have to assemble a management team for both the editorial and financial side of the newspapers.

Sengstacke isn’t alone in trying to increase her readership. Poor circulation figures affect many newspapers because the public is turning to electronic media to get its news, says Dorothy Leavell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Leavell adds that the lack of advertising revenue has prevented black newspapers from offering competitive salaries to new talent. “One of the other problems that we have is attracting young readers,” she says.

Speaking of youth, Sengstacke doesn’t believe her age could hinder her ability to serve as publisher. “Plus, I think a majority of business is intuition, and I trust my intuition,” she says. “There is a vision for these papers, and there is so much more that can be done.”

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