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Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival

For the black community in Chicago and elsewhere, Johnson Publishing Company represented a certain kind of hope.The company’s magazines, most notably Ebony and Jet, gained prominence during the struggle for civil rights — Jet published graphic photos of the murdered black teenager Emmett Till that helped intensify the movement — and made it their mission to chronicle African-American life.At a time when much of the media was ignoring black people, or showing them primarily in the context of poverty or crime, Ebony and Jet celebrated their success, featuring stars like Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin on their covers. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the first print publication he granted an interview to was Ebony.So when Johnson Publishing, which is based in Chicago, announced a little more than two weeks ago that it had sold Ebony and Jet to a private equity firm in Texas, there was a sense of loss.“It was a very heartbreaking day,” said Melody Spann-Cooper, the chairwoman of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, which owns a Chicago radio station, WVON, aimed at a black audience. “Ebony gave to African-Americans what Life didn’t.”

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Source: Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival – The New York Times

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