Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey, Michael Jackson & Black Media

Given that challenges related to division and separation are frequently the subject of this blog, it's nice to think about Thanksgiving. While US presidents from Washington to Lincoln declared 'Days of Thanksgiving' it was actually Franklin Delano Roosevelt who set the 4th Thursday of each November as the official day of recognition for the holiday in the US - it was approved by Congress in 1941.

I've enjoyed my Thanksgiving holiday, family, food, friends and football. But one of my favorite parts is reading all the magazines my mother receives at home that I normally do not take time to read unless I am here.

I was raised in a household with a lot of reading material around, books, magazines, newspapers etc., so I've been reading Ebony magazine on and off for more than two decades. Ebony is something of a staple for many African-American households. Rare is the black barbershop that doesn't have old issues of Ebony and Jet laying around.

Ebony was created in the same style as Life Magazine; just take a look at the lettering and logo in the upper left corner of the cover.

Langston Hughes penned an interesting take on the history of the magazine
in 1965.

The cover of the December, 2007 issue featured Michael Jackson and I read through the cover story to see what the oft-maligned "King of Pop" was up to these days. Seems our fleet-footed friend has been living on an estate outside of Dublin where he's been writing material for a rumored album slated for 2008 or 2009 release.

He also reflects upon his career, the creation of Thriller and the state of contemporary music. If you're expecting to get an explanation on how one of the children who've accused him of child molestation could identify distinctive birth marks on the elusive star's penis you'll be disappointed.

Ebony, much like Life is given more to "puff" pieces in it's coverage of celebrities, the story, while it does feature an interview with Jackson, comes off as pretty 'safe' and right in synch with the Jackson camp.

Given the treatment and coverage of people of color by the mainstream media, (replete, by the way with 'puff' magazines...) saturated with negative images of blacks over the years, I think it's still important to have a magazine that portrays African-Americans in a positive light.

Regardless of whether or not the stories go into Vanity Fair-like detail, it continues to serve an important purpose and an audience that recognizes the brand as familiar and even comforting.

Kudos to John H. Johnson and the editorial staff over the years.

While headquartered in Chicago, the New York offices seem like they could use a little brushing up on the importance of the brand. My sister went over to the offices of Ebony & Jet for an interview recently and noted the curious absence of any magazine covers, logos or even photos adorning the walls of it's Big Apple offices.

As she observed, you be hard-pressed to even realize that the magazine was even associated with the office at all.

No comments: