Johnson Publications, the
irrelevant venerable old institution that brings Ebony and Jet magazines to Black beauty/barbershops and grand mama’s coffee tables all over the country, is laying off a bunch of people.
I guess I feel bad for most people losing a gig, but Black people really need to ask ourselves–is Ebony or Jet worth saving?
I hate to be the one to say it. But it’s 2007. These publications still look like 1974. Why in the hell do we still have a “Beauty of the Week” in Jet magazine? It’s foolish. Most of the articles read like rehashed press releases. I know they don’t have a big budget, but they could do better. The Beauty of the Week, the Bourgie Black Society/Wedding page, and the Top Songs/Albums of the week just have to go.
Ebony has made some slight improvements since they got a new editor in chief last year, but it’s still full of corny articles about Black celebrities and has had some really problematic articles on issues they’ve tried to take on, like HIV/AIDS. They’ve improved the website, EbonyJet.com, which looks great and has decent writers & content, but it needs to be better promoted. They said to Richard Prince at Journal-isms that they plan to invest their dollars (saved in the print employee layoffs) in improving upon their web presence. Here’s to that!
The Black press grew out of a need to not only cover news in the Black community, but also to show the Black community in a positive light. But now, we only have fluff and no news–at least not reported or written well half the time. The short-lived Emerge magazine was probably the best news magazine to come up in a long time, but it was killed in 2000 after seven years in publication.
The black weeklies are usually a mess. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
Alternatives? There’s Black Commentator and Black Agenda Report. Both of which I used to read regularly, but they could really use a skillful web designer to make them more appealing and easy to read.
Also, The Washington Post (sensing this dearth) has just launched The Root.com–an online publication targeting African-Americans. Keith Boykin is the new Editor in Chief of The Daily Voice. As much as I’d like to write for a Black publication, I am rarely asked to do so–or am ignored when I do pitch them. Usually I am too radical for the Black gays, and too gay for the Black radicals.
Can we get a progressive Black left publication (online or print) that is well written, comprehensive in scope, and looks hot? Am I asking too much?