Maynard Institute/Richard Prince: Johnson Publishing Co. Called “Under Siege”

The news regarding Johnson Publishing gets worse everytime you see them mentioned. Hat Tip to Kevin Ross of Three Brothers and a Sister who passed along an article by Richard Prince of the Maynard Instituted titled Johnson Publishing Co. Called “Under Siege.” 3 Brothers and a Sister also reports Ebony Magazine has only 1 photographer and is considering going down to six issues.

It’s a sad state for one of the greatest African-American institutions left in this country. The fate of media in general is struggling, but black media is headed towards the abyss.

Prince’s Maynard article highlights the financial troubles faced by Johnson, including mortgaging their building and liens from contractors. He also talks references comments made by Eric Easter -head of Ebony/Jet Digital- made at the Blogging While Brown Conference. Here are some of the highlights from Prince:

Also see Eric Easter of Ebony/Jet’s panel as mentioned in Prince’s article

  • “Ebony owner Johnson Publishing Co. is under siege, battered by sharp drops in advertising and circulation amid the most severe downturn in its 67-year history. In the past three months, Johnson has been hit with contractors’ liens claiming the company failed to pay for work worth nearly $500,000,” Eddie Baeb and Ann Saphir wrote Monday in Crain’s Chicago Business.
  • “In May, Johnson mortgaged its South Michigan Avenue headquarters building and parking garage to its printer, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co. Loan documents say the deal secured previous debts to Donnelley totaling $12.7 million — another sign of financial distress for the nation’s largest black-owned publishing company.
  • “Johnson’s troubles, while not that different from other publishing companies’, fall on the shoulders of Chairman and CEO Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of founder John Johnson. Ms. Rice, 50, must remake her organization amid a downturn that is hitting African-American media especially hard. The slump compounds the challenge she faces in revitalizing magazines many still associate with the civil rights era.
  • At a panel at a “Blogging While Brown” conference in Chicago over the weekend, (Eric) Easter mentioned a deal that Johnson Publishing made last year with Google to transform the archives of Ebony, Jet, Black World and Ebony Jr. magazines into digital, searchable formats. He said that only magazines after 1960 were used, because transforming them requires a process that destroys the original copies.

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