May 31, 2017
Ebony magazine is leaving Chicago after a seventy-two-year run
by Kait Howard
The news that Ebony magazine is cutting staff and relocating its office from Chicago to Los Angeles has locals mourning the end of an era.
The move, reported earlier this month by the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick, comes just a year after the magazine’s family-owned founding publisher, Johnson Publishing, sold Ebony and its sister publication, JET, to Texas private equity firm CVG Group, which has apparently been unable to reverse a trend of dwindling sales. Since the buyout, Ebony has also reportedly faced a number of new setbacks, including delayed deliveries and problems paying freelancers.
It’s of course a sad turn of events for the city of Chicago. As Channick notes, since its founding by John Johnson in 1945, Ebony has “documented and shaped African-American culture… coming of age as it reported from the front lines of the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s in powerful photos and prose.” Ten of thirty-five employees are being laid off as Ebony consolidates editorial operations with JET, which ceased print publication last year, though there’s been talk of relaunching a quarterly print edition. While editorial is moving, Ebony Media CEO Linda Johnson Rice will continue to work out of Chicago.
The Chicago Crusader’s Erick Johnson pointed out that Ebony is only the latest prominent African American-owned media company to leave the city in recent years, following the shutdown of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in 2015, and the departure of Steve Harvey’s show last year. It seems to be part of a larger westward media migration — Playboy magazine also departed Chicago in 2012.
In an interview with DNAinfo Chicago’s David Matthews, Michael Gibson of CFG Group insisted that Ebony will bounce back. While he declined to discuss the layoffs, and attributed the delay in paying writers to an accounting error, he explained that with most of the magazine’s events and shoots already happening it LA, it just didn’t make sense to stay.
“The kinds of articles we find [our readers] are interested in are articles that have sort of emanated from the West Coast,” he said.
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.