In this challenging time for print media, the historic jewel of African American periodicals, Ebony (like so many of our ancestors) is on the auction block. What was once a staple in so many African American homes is now struggling for its survival as many question its relevance.
During segregation Ebony and Jet magazines were key sources of information for the African American community about the community. With integration, too many of us left our communities, churches, and culture behind in order to assimilate into the dominant culture. With that, for too many, Ebony no longer reflects the community they live in; aspire to live in or a lifestyle that they see as relevant.
I have always felt that Ebony needed to incorporate more relevant political/economic/business information, analysis, and content to appeal to the growing African American middle and upper class. Life style and entertainment is great but that needs to be supplemented with the relevant information to maintain that life style. It's a difficult mix to maintain but necessary.
Selling Ebony/Jet does not mean that those magazines will cease to exist but with ownership comes control. The sale of Ebony/Jet goes back to the question of who will be left to define and interpret the issues that are relevant to the African American community and who will control its imagery. I don't know that Viacom has that mission or interest.
John H. Johnson said that Ebony was founded to "project all dimensions of the Black personality in a world saturated with stereotypes. We wanted to give Blacks a new sense of somebodiness, a new sense of self-respect. We wanted to tell them who they were and what they could do. We believed then--and we believe now--that Blacks needed positive images to fulfill their potentialities." The world continues to be saturated with those stereotypes and the community still needs positive images in order to fulfill its potential.