Desirée Rogers says of the delayed issue, "Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions."
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Company Maintains Advertisers Shortchange Black Media

The March issue of Ebony magazine was never published because the parent Johnson Publishing Co. was in a dispute with advertisers over rates, CEO Desireé Rogers told Journal-isms on Friday.

The dispute has been settled to Johnson's satisfaction, and a combined March-April issue is planned, Rogers said by telephone.

"One hundred percent of the clients have agreed to the new rates," the CEO said. The publication now has "the same market rates as any other magazine. It would be great if you could get the support of other black media" to challenge lower rates advertisers pay to African American-oriented media, she added.

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Rogers would not provide figures on the difference in rates.

Neither readers nor magazine distribution companies were notified that the March issue would be combined with the edition for April. "Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions," Rogers said of the failure to publish a March issue, adding that she hoped customers would understand. A customer service company notifies those who inquire, she said.

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There was also no separate January issue. The December and January issues were combined, Rogers said. "We have been doing that for years," she noted by email. Unlike in previous years, however, the December issue was dated simply "December 2014."

Negotiations to increase the rates began in the fourth quarter of 2014, Rogers said. Many advertisers' contracts expired in early 2015, and Johnson wanted the new contracts at the higher rates. "You need a certain amount of advertising for an issue," she said, explaining the absence of a March Ebony.

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Notice of the substitution of a combined March-April issue comes three weeks after Mitzi Miller, editor-in-chief of Ebony, announced Feb. 20 that she was leaving Johnson Publishing "to pursue new ventures that include creating stories for television and film."

The March-April issue, Rogers said, was produced with two women dividing the role of editor-in-chief: Kyra Kyles, who was editorial director of jetmag.com, and Kierna Mayo, Ebony's vice president, digital content.

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"The whole team is working jointly on the May issue," Rogers said. "We are working under a plan developed by the existing team for 30 to 60 days. . . . We'll be very careful in terms of who we select" as new editor-in-chief, and it will be someone who is knowledgeable about both print and digital, she said.

Wendy L. Wilson, Ebony's managing editor, has moved from the company's Chicago base to New York but will retain the job, Rogers said. Moving was Wilson's decision, and "We are making this work," Rogers said. "It's always good to have happy employees."

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Asked about a previous statement that Ebony planned to attract more male readers after recent editors skewed the publication toward women, Rogers said the upcoming issue will demonstrate that intention.

Johnson Publishing Co. is weathering other challenges, Lynne Marek wrote Feb. 7 for Crain's Chicago Business: 

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"The company's recent decision to sell its historic photo collection is the latest example of downsizing, following the cancellation of Jet magazine's print version, the sale of Johnson's 11-story Michigan Avenue headquarters and the paring of its workforce by a third since 2007. Now it's trying to sublet one of two floors it rented at its new digs, after giving up a third earlier.

"Johnson Publishing Chairman Linda Johnson Rice and CEO Desiree Rogers say they're positioning the 73-year-old publisher for growth, but even a 2011 cash infusion from JPMorgan Chase hasn't prevented reductions. Rogers won't comment on the private company's financial results, but she acknowledges that print advertising revenue for its remaining title, Ebony, fell 8 percent last year over 2013, or only 3 percent if digital is included. She has cut costs and outsourced to buoy the bottom line. . . ."

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"A lot of these decisions that are being made are decisions to right-size the company,” says Rogers, who took the CEO post in 2010 after leaving her job as White House social secretary. . . ."

Rogers said Friday that there were no new developments on the proposed sale of the photo archive.

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Ebony is the most widely circulated magazine targeting African Americans. In the latest figures available, the Alliance of Audited Media put Ebony's circulation at 1,260,564 in June 2014 and Essence magazine's at 1,062,717 in December. No December figure was listed for Ebony.

Fired Host Apologizes to First Lady, Denies Bigotry

"Rodner Figueroa wants Michelle Obama to know that he’s sorry for what he said about her. And that he’s not a racist," Tim Kenneally wrote Friday for TheWrap.

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"Figueroa, who was fired from Univision’s 'El Gordo y la Flaca' after he said that First Lady Obama 'looks like she’s from the cast of "Planet of the Apes," ' has issued a profuse apology to Obama in an open letter obtained by TheWrap.

“ 'I offer my sincere apology for an unfortunate comment I made about a makeup artist’s depiction of you on Univision’s show "El Gordo y La Flaca" yesterday. It was clearly in bad taste and misunderstood,' Figueroa’s letter began. 'I would like to explain that my remark was not directed at you, but at the result of an artist’s depiction of you that I found wasn’t accurate. The entire video clip in context corroborates this.'

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"Nonetheless, despite the apparent misinterpretation, Figueroa admitted that “there is no justification for someone at my level to make any kind of comment that could be interpreted as offensive or disrespectful to you personally, or to any minority in the times we live.”

"Figueroa, who had been with Univision for 17 years, went on to deny that he’s bigoted, noting that that he comes from 'a multi-racial Hispanic family' with an Afro- Latino father, and that he himself is “the first openly gay Hispanic TV host.”

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"The letter ended with a dig at Univision, which Figueroa claims smeared him in the media without giving him a chance to explain himself. . . ."

Jasmine Garsd, NPR: Univision Incident Reignites Questions About Diversity In Latino Media

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Blacks, Latinos More Likely to Follow Local Crime News

"Crime consistently ranks as one of the most followed and discussed topics by the public, and it receives more attention in local news media than almost any other subject," Paul Hitlin and Katerina Eva Matsa reported Friday for the Pew Research Center. "A recent Pew Research Center report reinforces these findings but also suggests that certain groups of residents pay closer attention to local crime than others in the three cities studied. A difference that particularly stands out is between racial and ethnic groups.

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"A deep analysis of local news in Denver, Macon, Ga., and Sioux City, Iowa, finds that in each city at least three-in-ten people follow crime very closely and more than half of residents often discuss crime with others.

"Interest in crime, though, is not equal across all residents in these cities, as seen in Denver and Macon, where racial and ethnic subgroups were large enough to analyze.

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"In Denver, Hispanics (19% of the city’s population) follow crime news very closely at nearly twice the rate of whites, 49% versus 26%. And seven-in-ten Hispanics in Denver often discuss crime news, compared with 49% of whites.

"In Macon, blacks (41% of the city’s residents) differ from whites in the amount of attention they devote to crime news to nearly the same degree. About six-in-ten blacks very closely follow crime news, compared with less than half (43%) of whites. And, while a vast majority of both blacks and whites discuss crime, blacks do so at higher rates (86% vs. 76%). . . ."

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The Real Lakshmi Singh Could Make His Day

"An unusual hat has been making the rounds among public radio personalities in New York. It's rested on the heads of some esteemed hosts: Leonard Lopate, Brooke Gladstone and Kurt Andersen, among others," Mike Janssen reported Feb. 17 for Current.org

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"On their heads, the beat-up trucker-style cap makes an obviously false claim: 'I AM LAKSHMI SINGH.' In photos of the hat and its wearers, the real Lakshmi Singh, NPR newscaster, is nowhere in sight.

"The hat has already made the trek from California to New York, and its travels aren’t over yet. Its owner, Studio 360 producer Sean Rameswaram, wants it to end up on the head of the real Lakshmi Singh. Its appearances on WNYC hosts, Rameswaram's friends and even a Taylor Swift cutout — are just a warmup and an effort to get Singh's attention.

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"Lakshmi Singh wearing the 'I AM LAKSHMI SINGH' hat — it's Rameswaram's dream. 'This is a celebration of her and her work,' he said.

"But time could be running out. 'It's falling apart,' Rameswaram said, 'and I would love to get a photo of her wearing the hat before it’s completely crumbled.' . . ."

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Singh is midday newscaster for NPR, joining its Newscast Unit in 2000.

An NPR biography says, "The diversity questions Singh has faced due to her biracial background (Singh's mother is Puerto Rican, her father is from Trinidad) have led her to take unconventional approaches to many stories."