Magic Johnson to Chair Vibe's Parent Company

NBA Hall of Famer Says, "We Will Redefine Vibe Holdings as the Center of Influence for the Coveted Urban Audience"

"Magic Johnson Enterprises and Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. have agreed to invest in Vibe Holdings LLC, the parent company of Vibe magazine and the music-and-dance TV show 'Soul Train,' in a deal that will install Mr. Johnson as chairman of the media company," Russell Adams reported Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.

Adams reported the investment was "in the eight figures."

The retired NBA Hall of Famer, who is 51, is not expected to have an editorial role in the company. "His role is the chairman," Brett Wright, co-CEO of Vibe and Uptown magazines, which are part of Vibe Holdings, told Journal-isms.


Johnson said in a news release that he would focus on the bigger picture. "History and legacy are paramount in building brand affinity and we plan to integrate this ideology into the resurgence of Vibe Holdings. Through leveraging established brand equity we will create a pertinent message vehicle for major advertisers. We will redefine Vibe Holdings as the center of influence for the coveted urban audience."

The company includes black ownership, but ownership is not majority black, Wright said. 

The news release said, "In the role of Chairman, Johnson, a venerated and proven architect of niche market development, will utilize his unparalleled business acumen to fuel the continued growth of Vibe Holdings through targeted brand extensions and the creation of diversified advertiser-friendly platforms."

Brett Pulley of Bloomberg News, who earlier Wednesday had quoted "a person familiar with the agreement" saying the deal was taking place, noted, "Johnson said last year that an affiliate of his company held 'advanced discussions' for him to purchase Johnson Publishing Co., owner of Ebony and Jet magazines, but was unable to reach an agreement.


"At the time, Johnson said that he remained interested in African-American media. Since then, Magic Johnson Enterprises liquidated its interest in about 105 Starbucks coffee shops, giving Starbucks Corp. all of the equity in those stores, according to Lisa Magnino, a spokeswoman for the company.

"Johnson also sold his stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, the National Basketball Association franchise where he once starred, the team said in October. Johnson has partnerships with several other companies, including 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. and T.G.I. Friday’s Inc."


The company announcement continued, "Vibe Holdings also announced today that Robert Miller, the co-founder of Vibe Magazine and former publisher of Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine, will become Chairman of the Vibe and Uptown magazine group. Len Burnett and Brett Wright will remain Co-CEOs of Vibe and Uptown magazines, and Kenard Gibbs will continue to serve as CEO of Soul Train."

Vibe, founded in 1993 by Quincy Jones as the first slick magazine targeting the hip-hop generation, announced in 2009 that it was folding under a pile of debt. But it was acquired soon afterward by a group led by the private equity firm InterMedia Partners and its luxury magazine publisher, Uptown Media.


Uptown magazine, an African American-oriented lifestyle publication, began regional editions and recorded a 18.7 percent circulation increase for the second half of 2010, even as U.S. consumer magazine circulation in general completed two consecutive years of declines.

According to Burnett, Uptown founder and CEO, "Uptown currently runs on a hybrid model in which 35 percent of its copies are sent to households with a total income of $75,000+ in smaller cities such as Charlotte and $125,000+ in larger cities such as New York, 30 percent are sold via subscriptions and 15 percent are sold on the newsstand. The rest are sent to restaurants, lounges, hotels and other venues where the targeted audience may socialize."


On FishbowlNY Wednesday, Chris O'Shea speculated that Johnson and Burkle's investment is "sure to attract the attention of competitors Ebony and Jet.

"As a way to combat Johnson’s impact with Vibe, FishbowlNY suggests that Ebony and Jet get Larry Bird involved somehow. The rivalry must continue," O'Shea wrote.


Ebony, Jet Continue Circulation Losses, but Uptown Gains

Ebony and Jet magazines continued a circulation slide in the second half of 2010, missing their rate base — the circulation guaranteed advertisers, according to figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. But Uptown magazine, part of Vibe Holdings, posted an 18.7 percent circulation gain.


Among magazines targeting Hispanics, Time Inc.'s People en Español dropped 2.3 percent, from 571,084 to 558,059, exceeding its rate base of 540,000. Latina rose one-tenth of 1 percent, from 508,002 to 508,406, exceeding its rate base of 500,000. Siempre Mujer (Always a Woman), published by the Meredith Corp., increased 1.5 percent, from 458,873 to 465,654.

Poder Hispanic rose from 306,422 to 399,161, an increase of 30.3 percent, near the rate base of 400,000. Poder Hispanic, "a Hispanic-focused business and lifestyle publication," was created in July in a merger of Poder Enterprise and Hispanic magazines, instantly doubling its circulation.


Overall, consumer magazines slowed a general circulation skid, with total paid and verified circulation dropping 1.2 percent for the second half of 2010. That compares with a 2.3 percent drop in the first half of the year, Matt Kinsman reported for Folio magazine, citing the preliminary figures released Monday.

"Newsstand sales accelerated their fall, down 7.3 percent (compared to a 5.6 percent drop in the beginning of the year). Total paid subscriptions also fell 1.2 percent," Kinsman wrote.


Ebony and Jet, both owned by Johnson Publishing Co., had also missed their rate base in the second half of 2009 and the first half of 2010. CEO Desiree Rogers vowed to return the publications to their rate base in 2011, Kinsman wrote in November. "We're working hard on our circulation and we've given a lot of thought to the fundamentals of the business," Rogers said then.

Ebony's rate base was 1,250,000, but its circulation dropped 14.8 percent in 2010, from 1,169,879 to 997,173. Jet's rate base was 900,000, but it fell 11.5 percent from 795,055 to 703,944.


Jet's editor, Mira Lowe, left in January. Rodrigo A. Sierra, chief marketing officer and senior vice president at Johnson Publishing, said at the time that Lowe's successor would be "a strong leader who has a really good idea of where they think that magazine can go for the future," who will keep it linked to the community and preside over "a very strong digital site."

Uptown, which has been adding regional editions, went from 178,518 to 211,922, meeting its rate base of 200,000.


Essence magazine dropped 1.9 percent, from 1,071,916 to 1,051,208. Its rate base is 1,050,000.

Black Enterprise magazine did not file its figures for either half of 2010, but spokesman Andrew Wadium said it planned to file for a supplemental report published Feb. 22. He said he did not have the circulation figures.


Sister 2 Sister rose 2.4 percent, from 161,122 to 165,041, meeting its rate base of 165,000. The hip-hop magazine XXL dropped 12 percent, from 191,158 to 168,196. No rate base was given.

Widow of Slain Egyptian Journalist Wants Justice

"The only journalist known to have been killed during the Egyptian uprising was honored Monday in Cairo," host Amy Goodman told listeners Monday on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!"


"Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud was a reporter for the state-owned newspaper Al-Ta’awun. He was shot on Friday, January 28th, when he tried to use his phone to film riot police as they fired tear gas canisters at protesters. He spent a week in the hospital before he died Friday. On Monday, journalists, family and friends held a symbolic funeral in Cairo, marching from the Journalists’ Syndicate to Tahrir Square holding an empty coffin.

"Al Jazeera English producer and writer Laila Al-Arian has just returned from Cairo, where she interviewed Mahmoud’s widow. Laila Al-Arian joins us in Washington, D.C.


Al-Arian continued the story. "His wife, Inas Abdel Alim, is also a journalist," Al-Arian said. "She is demanding a full investigation into the killing of her husband. She says no one knows who the perpetrator is, no one knows his name, although there were six or seven eyewitnesses that she spoke with at the scene who saw everything happen.

"She’s demanding that the Interior Ministry, especially, but in general that the government of Egypt investigate this killing of her husband, the first journalist killed during the Egyptian revolution, along with other human rights organizations who are also demanding the same thing. And she says there needs to be justice.


"She says, 'My family has been ruined. You know, our lives are over.' She still hasn’t actually been able to tell her 10-year-old daughter that her father has been killed. She says she’s too afraid to do so. So, her life has been changed forever, and all she wants is justice for her husband and, you know, for this to be investigated and for the person responsible to be put on trial."

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Wednesday that "Egyptian authorities are obstructing international news coverage of the country's political crisis by withholding press credentials and, in one instance, invading the home of a foreign journalist . . . . A well-known Egyptian blogger also remains unaccounted for after being seized by suspected government agents earlier this week.


"After an unprecedented assault on the press last week, anti-press attacks and detentions have been subsiding since the weekend, CPJ tracking has found. But numerous journalists have reported an ongoing government effort to obstruct and intimidate them."

"In the wake of the announcement that AOL bought Huffington Post, the people from their online community are incensed," Tina Dupuy, a Huffington Post blogger, wrote Wednesday on FishBowl LA. "One of their grievances is Huffington Post utilized free content provided by 'independent journalists' and when editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington cashed in to the tune of $315 million, the bloggers were not considered any compensation.


"Some bloggers have told FishbowlLA, they will just no longer post. Others have reported deleting their accounts."

On FishbowlDC, Betsy Rothstein wrote:

"After Politico‘s cartoon shot against HuffPost@AOL this morning, Senior V.P. of Public Relations Mario Ruiz responds to FishbowlDC about HuffPost not paying its bloggers.


The notion that a few people at The Huffington Post 'cashed in' on the backs of overworked, underpaid workers is simply not true.

"Indeed, everyone at the Huffington Post is benefiting financially from the deal — some through the vesting of options, and others through a special bonus pool that Arianna and the board decided to create to reward employees without options. To be clear, that applies to over 200 people.”


Media writer Tim Rutten wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Whatever the ultimate impact of AOL's $315-million acquisition of the Huffington Post on the new-media landscape, it's already clear that the merger will push more journalists more deeply into the tragically expanding low-wage sector of our increasingly brutal economy.

"That's a development that will hurt not only the people who gather and edit the news but also readers and viewers."


Survey Finds Digital Divide Between Latinos and Whites

"Latinos are less likely than whites to access the internet, have a home broadband connection or own a cell phone, according to survey findings from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center," Gretchen Livingston of the Pew Hispanic Center reported on Wednesday. "Latinos lag behind blacks in home broadband access but have similar rates of internet and cell phone use.


"While about two-thirds of Latino (65%) and black (66%) adults went online in 2010, more than three-fourths (77%) of white adults did so. In terms of broadband use at home, there is a large gap between Latinos (45%) and whites (65%), and the rate among blacks (52%) is somewhat higher than that of Latinos. Fully 85% of whites owned a cell phone in 2010, compared with 76% of Latinos and 79% of blacks.

"Hispanics, on average, have lower levels of education and earn less than whites. Controlling for these factors, the differences in internet use, home broadband access and cell phone use between Hispanics and whites disappear. In other words, Hispanics and whites who have similar socioeconomic characteristics have similar usage patterns for these technologies.


"Survey questions also probed for the use of non-voice applications on cell phones. . . ."

Jannette Dates to Leave Howard U. Deanship After 18 Years

Jannette L. Dates is stepping down as dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University, she announced on Tuesday. She has been dean or acting dean for 17½ years and associate dean for five.


A national search for a new dean is to begin immediately. Dates said she hopes to step down on June 30.

Dates' announcement comes less than two weeks after the university's board of trustees approved an "academic renewal plan" that spans three years and shutters or consolidates 71 of its 171 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.


Dates said she was pleased that the plan caps the number of journalism students. "A lot are very well-qualified," but there is only so much classroom and laboratory space, she said. Some instructors had complained that the school was teaching too many students who lacked the necessary skills; a cap will enable the school to weed out such students.

Dates said she would return to the faculty as a professor in the Department of Radio, Television and Film, devote more time to raising funds for a new building and conduct research. She said she planned a one-year sabbatical for research that includes communication policy and minority access to broadband technology. Dates is a board member of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.


The school has lately been emphasizing use of social media and entrepreneurship, she told Journal-isms.

"During her tenure, she oversaw the growth of the undergraduate and graduate programs, the naming of the school in honor of John H. Johnson, the influential publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, and the formation of the graduate program in Mass Communications and Media Studies," the school said in a news release.


"She also formed partnerships with such media groups as NBC, NPR and Fox News. Last year she was instrumental in arranging with ABC News to locate a news desk at Howard University, which provides internships for Howard University students and the opportunity to produce pieces for national broadcasts through ABC-affiliated outlets. Likewise, during her tenure as dean, the National Newspaper Publishers Association relocated its news service to the Department of Journalism to give students opportunities to publish their stories and multimedia productions in the more than 200 member Black newspapers."

Study: Loans to People of Color Did Not Cause Housing Crisis

"Conservative Republicans and commentators have frequently blamed the housing crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks to make loans in the low- and moderate-income areas where they operate.


"But a study to be released this week and a bipartisan commission conclude that the federal law had little impact on the crisis," Kenneth J. Cooper reported Wednesday for America's Wire, a news service operated by the Maynard Institute's Media Center on Structural Racism.

"This story, as well as others, are available free of charge from America's Wire. . . . As part of a new partnership with the Associated Press, America's Wire articles are also available to AP members," an announcement said.


Afro Newspapers, Google Put 1 Million Articles Online

"The AFRO-American Newspapers, one of the nation’s oldest news organizations dedicated to covering the African American community, has created a comprehensive collection of over a million articles that captures the African American experience in business, civil rights, education, health, law, and sports beginning in the late 19th century," the newspapers announced on Tuesday.


"Google partnered with the AFRO and helped to digitize the newspaper’s historic archives and make them searchable on-line and available to anyone, anywhere in the world.

" 'It took us over 10 years to develop and fine tune the concept to make the AFRO’s Archive site a reality and Google played a key role, said publisher Jake Oliver. 'The site includes original page views of complete editions of the newspaper dating back to the early 1900s and in-depth coverage of important stories such as the events of the arrests and national spectacle surrounding Scottsboro Boys trials, the entertainment coverage of Black movies stars such as Dorothy Dandridge, the Army’s use of the Tuskegee Airmen (Fighting 99th) in World War II, coverage of the Little Rock 9 Integration in 1954 and many other events that helped to shape the black community.'


"Researchers, students, historians, teachers, and other groups can use the Archives to trace family roots, develop talking points, craft speeches and gather information on a myriad of topics that affected African Americans. To access the AFRO-American Newspaper Archives on-line, a person should go to"

Johnson Publishing Co. announced a similar partnership with Google in 2008. Through Google Book Search, anyone can search the covers and content of Ebony, Jet, the defunct Negro Digest and Ebony Jr.


Some Say a Column Like This Makes a Difference!

"Richard Prince is a firm believer in the power of journalism to make change. And it doesn’t have to necessarily be difficult," Jackie Jones wrote on Wednesday for


" 'Just asking the question can cause change,' said Prince, author of Journal-isms, an online column published three days a week on the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education’s website. His dispatches are widely considered must-reading for African-American journalists in particular, but for other journalists of color — and mainstream ones also."

Jones' piece appeared as part of a "Living Legends" series that undertook for Black History Month. It was accompanied by an appearance by this columnist Tuesday on "The Tom Joyner Morning Show," joining Roland Martin and the Joyner crew in a discussion of the AOL-Huffington Post deal and diversity in the online world. BlackAmericaWeb is Joyner's website.


AOL and Huffington Post were also discussed Wednesday with host Michel Martin, Tom Rosensteil of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and this columnist on NPR's "Tell Me More."

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