Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist

NABJDigital Reviews The “New” Ebony Magazine

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

I grew up the daughter of an Air Force officer.  My dad joined the Air Force in the mid-1960s, just around the time the military began bringing on more officers.  I grew up all over the world, and with that there were two constants in my life — the Sears catalog and Ebony magazine.

My parents felt it was important that we saw our heritage in a magazine that highlighted what they felt was the best of black America.  We got to read about our culture and see — in print — achievers (besides my dad) profiled.

But when we moved back to the states, somehow, the subscription lapsed and other magazines filled the void.   Then a funny thing happened. I received an offer from the Urban League for a free, one-year subscription to Ebony.  And I signed up.

My timing was great — it happened to be the March issue, which was the first under a major redesign spearheaded by CEO Desireé Rogers and Editor-in-Chief Amy DuBois Barnett. It was Comedians issue, “edited” by Kevin Hart.  I loved the new design, from the open layout to the great stories that I felt were relevant in my life.

Senior Editor Adrienne Samuels Gibbs took a look at how generations are changing their views on faith and church attendance. Touré handled the covers story on comedians Steve Harvey, Monique and Chris Rock. And Keith Reed had an insightful interview with Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

It only got better in the April issue, which featured the cast of “Jumping The Broom” on its cover, written by my favorite entertainment writer Kelley L. Carter.  Living in Baltimore, I was glad to read the story “Without a Trace,” by Francie Latour, which featured the story of the disappearance (and subsequent death) of Phylicia Barnes.

And the quality of the publication continued in May, the Music issue, which featured a cover story on Jill Scott by Kelley Carter, with fantastic photos by Steven Gomillion and Dennis Leupold.  The story was informative and entertaining without getting too much into Scott’s personal business.   I was mesmerized by Lyah Beth LeFlore‘s story “The First King of Bling,” a fascinating story on the rise and fall of Andre Harrell and his Uptown Records.

No publication these days is worth its salt without a strong website and a vibrant iPad app, and Ebony is in the mix.  There’s a nice platform of photos and multimedia (I loved the video on the Jill Scott photo shoot and the photo gallery from this year’s Oscars). There’s also a good mix of stories that aren’t included in the magazine, keeping content fresh.

While I’m glad that Ebony is blogging, I’d like to see more from staff and contributors, although I do like that they linked up with Clutch magazine. The magazine is active on social media, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I’m a bit spoiled by my other magazines, which offer iPad access as part of my subscription.  Ebony charges everyone $3.99 an issue for its iPad version, and I’m reluctant to pay for something I feel should be a part of my subscription.  But I absolutely love that the magazine’s entire 65-year archive is available via a partnership with Google.

I recommend reading a blog post on Huffington Post by Zondra Hughes, deputy editor of Rolling Out, on the future of black publications. But the work that Ebony has done so far has made it much more likely to be one of the long-term survivors in an industry that continues to watch publications fold.