'Ebony' Departs Chicago, Heads To LA With Fewer Staffers

It’s the end of an era in the Windy City, as iconic African-American magazine Ebony and sister title Jet exit Chicago following a sale by longtime proprietor Johnson Publishing.

The transition includes layoffs for most of the magazines’ Chicago staffers, effectively spelling the end of publishing operations there. A number of Johnson Publishing executives are also on the way out from the company.

In June 2016, after publishing Ebony and Jet for seven decades, Johnson Publishing sold the titles to Texas-based private equity firm Clear View Group, an African-American-owned private-equity firm that invests in businesses serving that marketplace, including the assumption of an unspecified amount of debt.

Clear View formed a new company, Ebony Media, to take control of the magazines, while Johnson retained ownership of its Fashion Fair cosmetics line.

Last week, Clear View cut 10 out of 35 total positions at Ebony, including editor-in-chief Kyra Kyles. The private-equity firm announced the magazines would move to new offices in Los Angeles, where the remaining staff will report to editor Tracey Ferguson.

Separately, Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers, the former White House social secretary who led its cosmetics business, is also departing the company, effective June 2. Johnson publishing chairman Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of founder John Johnson, will serve as CEO.

The moves spell the end of Johnson’s 71-year-long publishing business in Chicago, which dates back to 1945, when Johnson launched Ebony to address political and social issues affecting African-Americans. Jet, a weekly news, opinion, culture and lifestyle title, launched in 1951 and moved to a digital-only publication in 2014.

In April, Ebony became the target of a social-media movement by disgruntled freelancers who took to Twitter to complain it was late in paying contributors. The magazine’s management vowed to pay freelancers, but it’s not clear how or when this will happen.

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