BY ERICK JOHNSON
The company that now owns Ebony and Jet magazines recently announced that the editorial teams for both publications will relocate to Hollywood. The move marks another loss for Chicago, which was once a magnet for Black-owned media.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Oprah Winfrey shutdown production at her Harpo Studios for good in December 2015. Television personality Steve Harvey announced last year that he was leaving Chicago to start a new show in Los Angeles.
Motown, the iconic, record label that was once a staple of Detroit’s music scene, bolted for the West Coast decades ago. Now, Ebony and Jet join that western migration, leaving many in the Black community scratching their heads.
Sold last year
It’s the latest chapter for two, storied publications that for years have struggled to find their way in the ever-evolving world of new media.
The founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, John H. Johnson, died in 2005. His wife, Eunice, died in 2010. Their daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, sold Ebony and Jet in 2016 to CVG Group, a Houston private equity firm. Jet ended its print-run in June 2014 and is now only available in digital form.
What many had hoped to be a new chapter for Ebony and Jet is now fading. The latest disappointment came May 5 when the CVG Group announced that Ebony was laying off about 10 of 35 employees, including Editor-in-Chief Kyra Kyles. Tracey Ferguson, the digital editor of Jet, will be responsible for both magazines. Ebony has 1.2 million subscribers.
Most of the laid-off employees were from the Chicago-area, according to “Crain’s Chicago Business.” Johnson Publishing’s CEO Desiree Rogers resigned and is expected to spend more time as head of Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism bureau.
Daughter not moving
Johnson Rice will now be CEO and chairman of Johnson Publishing Company, which owns the Fashion Fair cosmetics line that is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Johnson Rice is the CEO of the CVG Group’s Ebony Media Group, which runs Ebony.
While Ebony will relocate to Los Angeles, Johnson Rice will maintain an office in Chicago and remain CEO of Ebony. Since selling the headquarters in 2010, Johnson Publishing has operated out of the Borg-Warner building at 200 S. Michigan Avenue.
Despite attempts to reinvent Ebony, the magazine has continued to struggle. The magazine’s print subscribers complained about receiving issues months late, a problem Johnson Rice attributed to changing printers.
Recently, Ebony’s freelance writers took to social media, venting their frustrations of not being paid for work published months ago. CVG Group officials said that the rushed purchase of the magazines contributed to a backlog in payments to freelancers.