It appears as though the oldest magazine dedicated to “extolling African American achievement” is up for sale.  Many publications have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Sadly, Ebony’s revenues have been on the decline far worse than most; this year their total ad pages dropped by 40 percent.

Word is that Johnson’s Publishing CEO (and daughter of the late founder John H. Johnson) Linda Rice Johnson has approached investors as well as possible buyers for this historic magazine. Ebony is in “big, big trouble” as one particular publishing source told Newsweek. Allegedly, Mrs. Johnson Rice has met with no success in courting and securing a partner or potential buyer, leaving many wondering how the outcome will impact the African American community.

According to Newsweek: “One publishing executive familiar with the situation said that Rice, given the magazine’s historical significance and its deep roots in her family, hopes to remain an integral part of it. This suggests she prefers to woo a partner rather than sell the magazine outright. In any case, a purchase by a mainstream media company or publisher [would] end African-American control.”

Just as Viacom acquired BET, Ebony faces ownership of a massive corporate entity that is out of touch with its original mission, and completely uninterested in making progress within the community it’s meant to serve.

Regardless, what would be the point of supporting a Black magazine under non-Black control? Perhaps it is time for Mrs. Johnson Rice to relinquish her control over the magazine, as her leadership may have contributed significantly to Ebony’s demise.

Nothing lasts forever, but it would be tragic to witness a landmark resource created to uplift our community led by forces that have a penchant for undermining it. Ebony is an important piece of history for us; let’s hope that it will move its content and message into the future – under African American control.

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