It’s not exactly news that the economic downturn is kicking arse and taking names. And one of those names is Johnson publishing, the company behind the venerable Jet and Ebony magazines.
Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column points to an article by Eddie Baeb and Ann Saphir, who wrote Monday in Craig’s Chicago Business, the details of some of the black-owned company’s problems:
“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.
“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.
“‘They have a set of challenges that go beyond those of companies that are not black-owned,’ says Ken Smikle, president and publisher of Chicago-based Target Market News, which monitors African-American media. Advertisers are slashing budgets that already were under-allocated to black-targeted media, he says – ‘all those things coming at a time when the company had invested in upgrading their magazines,’ Mr. Smikle says. [Smikle bought Black Issues Book Review in 2006 and said in April he would have a statement soon on the future of the publication, which has not appeared in more than a year.]
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