Frost Illustrated mum on lapse in printing

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One light shines within the Frost Illustrated office. The most recent edition in the news rack in front of the 3121 S. Calhoun St. office was dated Sept. 27.

A weekly newspaper that began serving Fort Wayne’s black community in 1968 has not published since September.

On the occasion of the 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Club Inc. Breakfast With the Clergy, subscribers and supporters praised Frost Illustrated but spoke of it as part of the city’s past.

The newspaper has neither announced nor denied any change in status. Yet, the Sept. 27 edition was the last to be placed in the news rack outside the office at 3121 S. Calhoun St. The website was last updated on Nov. 4, as of the IN|fort wayne publication deadline. Calls placed to the office since early December have reached a recording signaling that the number is not in service. Emails sent to addresses listed on the website have not been acknowledged. Ads on the website promote events that passed months ago.

“We looked forward to Frost so much,” said Fran Grant, the coordinator of the Jan. 15 breakfast at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. “You wanted to know who was in an accident or who died. That was our only link to the black community. We miss it so much.”

Subscribers said the newspaper just stopped arriving. Vendors said the publication stopped being delivered to their stores. The website carries no mention of any actual or proposed change in status, or of any plan to resume printing.

The website does offer a bit of history: “Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne’s oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.”

The website lists Edward N. Smith as the publisher. Attempts to reach Smith were unsuccessful.

Frost had been a reliable supporter of the MLK Club’s endeavors, including buying full-page ads in the souvenir program of each Breakfast With the Clergy. Early announcements of the 2018 breakfast listed Frost as a sponsor. In December, the club began looking for other means to promote the annual breakfast. On Jan. 4, MLK Club President Bennie Edwards confirmed that Frost would not be a sponsor or a publicity option in 2018.

Through five decades, Frost published material specific to the African-American population of Fort Wayne. Local and national obituaries found a place on the website. The printed church directory listed services across the south side of Fort Wayne. The pages carried police news, and political news. Columnist Jeanie Summerville’s thoughts on entertainment and social conscience; she described it as “shining a spotlight on the people.” That September edition, though, carried few ads.

The 2018 MLK breakfast, which might have served as a celebration of sorts of Frost’s 50 years, instead made no mention of the publication.

In interviews, though, readers shared disappointment about the newspaper’s absence and silence.

Edwards said Frost has been a good supporter of the MLK Club, of the broader black community, and of Fort Wayne.

“Frost has been the civil rights leader in our community,” said Pamela Hines, the wife of City Councilman Glynn Hines. “They’re a force to reckoned with.”

Frost has sponsored the breakfast for years, said Bessie Woods, of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. After checking her records to make sure her subscription had not expired, she tried without success to reach the newspaper.

“They had some wonderful stories from time to time,” Woods said.

She mentioned the stories about churches and about youth. She said her only recourse now is to get those notices is “by word of mouth, by coming to church.”

“I love that Frost covers a lot of news of the community and that it’s church-based,” said Connie Bush, who also was among the 340 people at the breakfast. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith have done so much for the community.”

Deloris Dailey, of the Well church on Hanna Street, said Frost has been the voice of an entire segment of the population.

Asked whether she has found or expects to find that same voice elsewhere, she answered, “No, no, no.” She shook her head and added, “No.”

“It represents us. It’s news about us,” she said. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith have done so much for the community.”