Following a month of announcements on corporate restructurings, Linda Johnson Rice is back at the helm of three of the best known brands in Black America. Over the weekend, a statement was released by Johnson Publishing Co. citing the departure of Desiree Rogers, who will end her seven-year tenure as CEO on June 2. Her duties will be assumed by the company’s chairman, Johnson Rice.
This news was preceded three weeks earlier by an announcement that Johnson Rice, 58, was replacing the departing CEO of Ebony Media Operations Cheryl McKissack. EMO is the company operating the magazines after they were acquired last June by Texas-based CVG Group.
A Chicago Tribune story last week claimed that JPC was firing a third of all of its staff, including Ebony’s editor, Kyra Kyles, and suggested it was moving to Los Angeles, where Jet’s current Editor In Chief, Tracey Ferguson, was already based.
In an interview with Target Market News, Johnson Rice denied there had been extensive layoffs or plans to relocate and said recent developments were all part of her ongoing plan to streamline and grow the company founded by her father and mother in Chicago 75 years ago.
“Sometimes you have to make some hard choices and hard changes, but I think that this is what’s great for the business, in order to grow the business and to keep it on a path that will be successful.”
“In an effort to streamline our business and to get it where it needs to be, we decided we would consolidate and have Tracey Ferguson, who is the Editor In Chief of Jet, also be EIC of Ebony and handle all of the digital [needs] on both sites,” said Johnson Rice. There will also be editorial staff in New York and Chicago.
“We will still have a big presence in Chicago,” she continued, “because our sales and marketing team is there, our production is in Chicago. So I want to be real clear on that — we’re not leaving Chicago.”
The company recently signed an agreement with the famed talent firm, William Morris (now known as WME). “We signed both brands with William Morris to represent us in broadcast opportunities and media opportunities and events like The Power 100,” said Johnson Rice. “They’re going to handle both brands across multiple platforms.”
Johnson Rice also said that the problems of recent undelivered issues to subscribers were being resolved. “We changed printers in late last year and that threw us off track. We apologize profusely to all our subscribers, who we value greatly. We’ve been behind in sending the issues but they will receive the issues they missed. We’re in the process of catching everybody up. We had a bit of a learning curve when we changed printers and things got behind, but we’re back on track.”
Ebony, which had published monthly, is now producing eight issues a year, with four special subject issues released only on newsstands.
One indication that JPC at last may be turning the corner on its challenges is the announcement that Jet magazine, once the largest circulation black-oriented magazine ever printed, will return to publication as a newsstand-only quarterly, targeting a millennial readership. After suspending print editions in 2014, Johnson Rice said it will re-appear in the fall of this year.
Perhaps Jet’s return will come in November, which founder John H. Johnson called his “lucky month” because his very first magazine, Negro Digest, debuted in November of 1942. Every one of the 11 magazines JPC would introduce over the past 75 years premiered in November as well.