Below new possession, the journal ‘Ebony’ is aiming to spice up enterprise with blacks: NPR
Ebony magazine shows the glamor and courage of black life since November 1, 1945 when black entrepreneur John Johnson published the first issue. It was supposed to be a black version of Henry Luce’s Life magazine.
Ebony’s stories and glossy photos of black politicians, athletes, protesters, artists, models and college students have nourished black souls for generations.
In recent years, however, the magazine has faced the same challenges as many other traditional print publications. Now that she turns 76, the publication is restarting, hoping for a revival with a fresh approach.
John Johnson’s firm, Johnson Publishing, sold Ebony and its sister magazine Jet to a private equity firm in 2016.
Ebony ceased printing its magazine in 2019 and Johnson Publishing filed for bankruptcy that same year.
The magazines changed hands again last year when Milwaukee Bucks alum and black businessman Ulysses Bridgeman bought Ebony and Jet for $ 14 million in December. March officially reissued.
Lessons from the historical black press
Ebony uses a purely digital format to reach audiences. But now many media outlets are making stories about black people. Clint Wilson taught journalism at Howard University and recalls a similar moment during the civil rights era.
“The white press, not just the written press, but also the television news. At the time, there was NBC, ABC, CBS – they were all covering the civil rights stories, ”he says. “We just lost control of our own messages.”
Many of the weeklies that made up the black press during this period have been preserved. Wilson estimates there are about 200 left today.
Buried in the history of the black press are possible clues as to how to hold your own in today’s media environment.
“If we go back to the founding of the Black Press, there was a hunger, a thirst to unite as a community,” says Wilson.
The first black newspaper called Freedom’s Journal was founded in 1827. Many more followed, including the Pittsburgh Courier, The Chicago Defender, Frederick Douglass ‘The North Star, and Charlotta Bass’ The California Eagle.
“When the film Birth of a Nation was made … [Bass] was the one who alerted other Black publications around the country that this film was being made and how degrading it was, “says Wilson, and Bass forces the director to cut some scenes.
Ebony is committed to financial education and black wealth building
Ebony evokes this organizational spirit on topics such as abolition, the right to vote and against racist housing and work practices with his new focus: “Move Black Forward”.
Michelle Ghee became CEO of Ebony in January. She says the publication is aimed at promoting “generational wealth” among blacks. Instead of sacrificing celebrity and entertainment, Ebony is increasingly releasing content that builds financial literacy, wealth, and encourages business participation.
“African Americans are not rewarded, they are not honored, they are not hired to the extent that they contribute to the American fabric,” says Ghee.
“We need to start educating, but also giving people tools so they can start building their businesses too. I fly from place to place and literally meet small business owners who ask: How can we help you, how can we support you? “
As part of the new mission, Ebony has hosted “Block Party” events in Atlanta, New York City, and New Orleans designed to highlight and empower small black businesses.
Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution, who studied black business and wealth, says the new focus will fuel efforts towards economic equality and mobility and help reshape racial perceptions.
“Our elders always said: our ice cream is just as cold [as that of white people]. They knew that our services, our goods, are just as good. So if we can eliminate these negative stereotypes, we can really eat up the current wealth gap, ”he says.
Ebony is confident that their new approach will make a difference and pay off for the magazine.