John H. Johnson, founder of the iconic Ebony and Jet magazines — who can fill his shoes today? Will there ever be another great black media tycoon?
Recently, the Columbia College Association of Black Journalists presented a dynamic panel of media professionals to dialogue with its journalism students about the current state and future of black media.
The event and reception, led by CCABJ faculty adviser Shirley H. Henderson of Ebony magazine, took place at Columbia College Chicago, an urban institution for the liberal arts.
The panel discussion was moderated by Jorian Seav, CCABJ president; and included rolling out publisher Munson Steed; Kathy Cheney (Chicago Defender); Candi Meriwether (Jet magazine); Frances Moffett (Gloss ezine); and We The People Media. One topic of discussion was who, if anyone, would be the next John H. Johnson.
“I think there is a John Johnson among you, or a Chuck Creekmur, co-founder and CEO of AllHipHop.com,” Steed said. “And among the young ladies, I think of Necole Bitchie, she was one of the Female Success Factor women that we took on tour.
I’m not saying that she’s perfect in everything that she does, but she reaches one million people. So her circulation … she’s already there.” Steed cautioned, however, that “This is one of the ways that we are pit against each other … instead of us working closer together. If we bring our collective voices together in a much more meaningful dialogue, we can all grow.”
The panel also tackled the relevance of African American niche media properties in a burgeoning multicultural, (arguably) post-race society.
“One of the questions that I get about Jet magazine, and Ebony magazine’s relevance, [is] are they still necessary?” said Meriwether. “And it’s asked about black colleges and anything that is purely African American. Part of the history of African Americans in this country stems from protest. And whether or not there is a still a need for protest and for someone to talk about the problems that have not been resolved, speaks directly to the mission of African American publications like mine and some of the others. The challenge is to get African Americans who may believe that that struggle, that protest time has passed, to see there is still a need for that kind of voice in our culture, in Latino culture, in all cultures.”
The late, great, John H. Johnson believed that meeting the needs of the people was the formula of success: “For it is still true and has always been true, that there is no defense against an excellence that meets a pressing public need.”
Photos by Billy Montgomery