Saturday, October 29, 2011

Johnson Publishing Company

Johnson Publishing Company (JPC)
Founded: 1945 by John H. Johnson
Work Product: Ebony, Jet Magazines, Ebony Fashion Show, Fashion Fair Cosmetics
Primary Demographic: African-Americans
Format: Lifestyle Magazine
Readership: 2 million+ Readers Monthly
Paid Circulation: 2,751,660

For me the Johnson Publishing Company was a great subject to concentrate my blog on for a few reasons.

First and foremost I made a promise to myself early on that I would utilize both my undergraduate and graduate studies to combine the subject I was being taught about and assigned to research as an opportunity to get to know more about Africans and their/our experience in America along with the trials and tribulations of such. For example if I had a history class and was assigned to do a project about the Great Depression. I would do the research on how the Great Depression affected Negro people at the time. I see it as the best of both of my worlds as far as an educational outcome is concerned. This is the "other history or additional history", that is not being taught to me or my peers even on a graduate level. This area is also where I will base my professional expertise.

Second it is a media organization, our area of concentration. I along with most other African-Americans grew up with Ebony and Jet magazines. There was a time when one would not enter many Black households and not see one or both of these magazines on the coffee table. Same holds true today especially in the homes of older Black people. I suspect the younger generation goes online or reads what is in the home. JPC founder John Johnson managed to build a magazine empire that has endured for 65 years. This is an extraordinary feat considering the decline of print media in the digital age. Ebony and Jet have built a rock solid reputation showcasing the prominence of African-Americans in all areas (business, medicine, science, politics, religion etc.) not just entertainment and sports. In addition it does not shy away from tough cultural issues engaging the reader in conversations they will not get anywhere else.
Lastly and of significant importance to this study is Johnson’s wife Eunice (JPC co-founder). Eunice Johnson played a huge role in the overall structure of the initial brand and the expansion to other arenas to include the Ebony Fashion Show and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Initially this was done at a time when women did not have representation in the business market much less decision making authority.  She was also quite successful in her campaign to include Black models on the runways of Paris and in mainstream magazines. She took the Black is Beautiful idea to a new level. Eunice Johnson died in 2010, her husband John in 2005. Such is the significance of John Johnson and his contribution to American culture he will be depicted on a Forever Stamp in 2012.

Johnson Publishing Company is the largest African-American publishing company in the world. JPC shows little or no signs of decrease in relevance or the ability to adjust to new media formats and stakeholder demands.

The JPC mission statement has changed little since its inception “for African-Americans to tell our stories, to show that we mattered, to show that we are great. He quenched Black America’s “thirst for recognition and respect.”

Johnson put it best: “We believed in 1945 that Black Americans needed positive images to fulfill their potential. We believed then—and we believe now—that you have to change images before you can change acts and institutions.” Funny thing is that in 2011 the same still holds true.

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