Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Vibe Magazine Folding After 16 Years

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Monday, June 29, 2009
and July 1, 2009

CEO Cites "Lack of Additional Financial Investments";
Quincy Jones Wants to Buy Back "My Magazine"

Vibe magazine, the best-known and most mainstream of the magazines aimed at the hip-hop generation, is folding immediately after 16 years, Steve Aaron, Vibe Media Group's chief executive officer, announced on Tuesday.

Later in the day, Vibe founder Quincy Jones said, "I'm trying to buy my magazine back now,' according to Adrienne Samuels Gibbs of Ebony magazine.

"Jones told EbonyJet.com just moments ago during a telephone call to Jones' London abode"' that, 'They just messed my magazine all up, but I'm gonna get it back. You better believe it, I'm'a take it online because print and all that stuff is over,' Gibbs wrote.

But Jones did not say how he would accomplish what many others have not: produce an online publication that is also profitable.

Aaron told staffers in a memo, "It is with a heavy heart that I share some tough news, VMG is closing down effective today, June 30 due to lack of additional financial investments.

Vibe's current issue."Unfortunately, over the last several months, a confluence of events has obviously posed VMG to exceedingly serious challenges.

"The collapse of the capital markets has impacted us greatly. Over the past several months, we have actively pursued investment resources while working intensively with our bank to find a solution. But the deal market right now remains very poor and at the end of the day, the lack of investment resources to restructure the huge debt on our small company has made this outcome become a reality.

"The print advertising collapse hit VIBE hard, especially as key ad categories like automotive and fashion, which represented the bulk of our top 10 advertisers, have stopped advertising or gone out of business. It's also unfortunate that in a recession many companies reduce the multi-cultural campaigns. These facts, coupled with the continuing decline of the music industry not to mention the newsstand wholesaler consolidation in early 2009 all negatively impacted our business in a significant way.

"The relentless economic situation has depressed our growth initiatives on the digital front. To be clear, VMG has made significant improvement in this part of our business, but not at the accelerated pace required to offset the devastating effects of the most severe recession in our lifetime and the accompanying print losses."

Danyel Smith, former chief content officer of Vibe Media Group and editor in chief of Vibe, issued this statement:

"On behalf [of] the VIBE CONTENT staff (the best in this business), it is with great sadness, and with heads held high, that we leave the building today. We were assigning and editing a Michael Jackson tribute issue when we got the news. It's a tragic week overall, but as the doors of VIBE Media Group close, on the eve of the magazine's sixteenth anniversary, it's a sad day for music, for hip hop in particular, and for the millions of readers and users who have loved and who continue to love the VIBE brand. We thank you, we have served you with joy, pride and excellence, and we will miss you."

Jones, the multifaceted musician, founded Vibe in 1993. The first issue featured the rapper then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, now Snoop Dogg.

Critics applauded.

"Its hip yet clean design and sharp eye for music, cultural-trend reporting and political commentary actually makes it seem like a black-oriented version of Spin," Marty Hughley wrote in the Portland Oregonian. "And the current issue includes excellent writing from the versatile critics Greg Tate and Nelson George, senior writer (and former Spin contributor) Scott Poulson-Bryant and others. Subjects range from a tribute to the late jazz composer Sun Ra to women in reggae to aesthetic shifts in the world of skateboarding."

In 2002, under editor Emil Wilbekin, who spent 12 years at the magazine, Vibe garnered the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, a rarity for a magazine geared toward a multicultural audience or one of color.

"Vibe enjoyed significant success in the late '90s and early part of this decade as hip hop and R&B became the nation's predominant forms of pop music," wrote Jeff Bercovici of AOL's dailyfinance.com, who was apparently the first to break the Vibe story on Tuesday.

"But in recent years the title has fallen on hard times under its new owner, the Wicks Group, which bought it in 2006. In February, it reduced its circulation and publishing frequency, cut salaries and moved employees to a four-day workweek to save money."

"Jones says that all publications must figure out how to live online," Gibbs wrote for ebonyjet.com. "That's where he's going to take Vibe once he recovers from the death of his friend and prot?©g?© Michael Jackson. "'We gotta get into the 21st century you know,' Jones said. 'Print and all that stuff is over, we gotta remember that. The Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Post Intelligencer. The Miami Herald. They're over the same way as the record business. We have got to get into this century.''

Vibe reported a circulation of 817,825 as of Dec. 31, down from 894,951 the previous year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

And while the magazine was once thick with ads, advertising dollars were down 15.2 percent from the year previous, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures from January.

On Gawker.com, Hamilton Nolan laid out the recent carnage:

"The recent dead include Radio and Records, Performing Songwriter, and Blender," he wrote.

"Vibe probably had the most demographically diverse readership of any major music magazine. Now, the hip hop magazine world is ruled by the shaky Source and XXL, with strong online competition; the trade music sector is still topped by Billboard, incredibly shaky as well; the pop music mag sector is ruled by Rolling Stone, which is a shell of its former self; and Spin, Fader, Paste, and everyone else are just trying to protect their own audiences from the free, and many times much better, online intruders. Hard times."

NAHJ Sees Membership Drop by 36 Percent

"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is facing a budget crisis after seeing its membership drop by 36 percent," the student-produced Latino Reporter reported from the NAHJ convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"According to a preliminary report, the association’s membership has fallen to 1,400 from 2,200 members in 2008.

"Students now make up 40 percent of NAHJ’s membership.

In a separate story, Marissa Lang reported, "Attendance at The National Association of Hispanic Journalists exceeded expectations, and staff members said they ran out of conference bags for registrants.

“'We were hoping for 700 [participants]. Anything above that was a bonus,' Kevin Olivas, NAHJ Parity Project director, said. 'We knew because of the economy and severe cutbacks that the turnout would be much lower than we normally get. That’s why the emphasis has been on training or developing skills to become entrepreneurial.'

"Ivan Roman, NAHJ executive director, said there were more than 850 registrants, panelists and speakers. Of those, 530 were paid registrants. All 795 bags, stuffed by NAHJ staff and board members, were handed out.

"The bags were recycled. The food portions were small. The lines for drinks were more than five minutes long."

. . . Grants Helped Pay for Multimedia Training

Ivan Roman, the executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Journal-isms on Wednesday that the Ford Foundation gave the association a $100,000 grant; "$50,000 of it to pay for airfare, lodging and registration for 38 journalists to come to the convention and get all the training we were offering in just four days (which everyone said was stellar and drew packed rooms despite the beautiful sun and beaches outside); and $50,000 to support The Latino Reporter portion of the student projects.

"The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation gave us a $50,000 grant to pay for airfare, lodging and registration for 38 journalists to come to the convention and receive the training.

"With that, we were able to bring 76 journalists to San Juan thanks to the grants and NAHJ helped another 40 or so journalists by either offering comp registration or paying for their airfare or both. That does not count speakers, 100 student project and student campus participants and mentors, etc.

"We paid to put free high-speed wireless capabilities in all meeting and training rooms, common areas in the convention center (with exception of the expo), the student newsroom and that whole wing of the convention center, etc., so we could have 400-500 people on line at the same time.

"There was so much traffic downloading programs, lots of video, HD files, etc. that we had to pay more to boost it the second day. We provided no computers. Everyone was instructed to bring their laptops and lists and links to software that they needed to download for each session was sent to people ahead of time.

"The feedback about the focus of the convention, the programming emphasizing multimedia-journalism related sessions, the venue, and the positive tone and promotion of hope for journalists to evolve with the times, embrace opportunities that the future can offer, and reinvent themselves was overwhelmingly positive. I feel proud of what we were able to accomplish with this convention.

"We are building a wave of Latino journalists more prepared to face the current transitions in the news industry and who are paving ways for themselves in multimedia journalism in various roles and levels, whether they work for a media company, in academia, or work on their own. We plan to build on this all year leading up to and in our next convention in Denver."

7 Journalists Detained Covering Honduras Coup

"Honduran troops detained seven international journalists covering the aftermath of a military coup Monday, freeing them unhurt a short time later. The government also took at least two television stations off the air and interrupted the broadcasts of others," the Associated Press reported from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

"At least 10 soldiers, most with rifles drawn, arrived at the hotel where journalists from The Associated Press and the Venezuela-based television network Telesur were staying and unplugged their editing equipment in an apparent attempt to stop their coverage of protests in support of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.

"One of the Telesur journalists was speaking on a telephone at the time of the detention, and AP's Nicolas Garcia saw a soldier lightly slapping her hand so she would hang up.

"Garcia, an Argentine videojournalist, and Esteban Felix, a Peruvian photographer, and two Nicaraguan assistants were loaded into a military Land Cruiser, with another military vehicle following close behind. Also detained were Telesur journalists Adriana Sivori, producer Maria Jose Diaz and cameraman Larry Sanchez."

Jet, USA Today Produce Jackson Commemoratives

Special Jet issue is due Thursday.Jet magazine and USA Today are among the first publications to put out special Michael Jackson editions, the two announced on Tuesday.

"From exclusive photos of The Jackson 5 with the late John H. Johnson," founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, "to Michael’s celebration of Thriller’s 25th anniversary, this collector’s edition is sure to be a fan-favorite," enthused   a release from Johnson Publishing Co. The July 20-27 issue is due out Thursday, a departure from Jet's normal two-week lead time.

"The company made a commitment to get this issue out as quickly as possible," spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington told Journal-isms.

Johnson Publishing Chairman and CEO Linda Johnson Rice says in the magazine, "The relationship between the Johnson and Jackson family spans decades. They’d visit our offices, and there was a very special business relationship between my father, John H. Johnson and Michael. Our publications have covered Michael and his siblings since the launch of their phenomenal careers. When I think about the many significant topics we’ve covered over the years that helped shaped African-American culture, Michael Jackson certainly ranks among the most popular and memorable." 

USA Today's  special edition features Life section's work.USA Today announced it has produced a 96-page glossy-format commemorative edition titled "Michael Jackson: King of Pop" that is now available for $6.99 on newsstands. It features nearly 100 full-color images.

A 40-page tabloid-sized special edition, "Michael 1958-2009" ($4.95) will be available on newsstands until July 27 for $4.95, the publication said. The edition features work by the Life section’s reporting staff and music critics, including highlights from Sunday's tribute to Jackson on the BET Awards.

Additional Jackson related content can be found at life.usatoday.com and a six-part tribute video called “Michael Jackson: A video tribute to the King of  Pop” is available at mj.usatoday.com.

USA Today's glossy commemorative edition.David Bauder of the Associated Press reported Tuesday that, "Media coverage of Michael Jackson's death began receding following an extraordinary worldwide outpouring, with the shock wearing off and the pace of new developments slowing.

"The Bernie Madoff sentencing, a presidential speech on energy, U.S. combat troops withdrawing from Iraqi cities and a cable news staple in Dallas — a high-speed car chase — took time away from the drumbeat of speculation Monday on the cause of Jackson's death and the future of his children.

"Still, producers at CBS News were hurriedly putting together another prime-time special for Tuesday night on Jackson. NBC News bought the rights to journalist Martin Bashir's lengthy 2003 interview with Jackson for a Monday-night show, after MSNBC showed it several times over the weekend."

Bruce DePyssler will be honored in Salt Lake City. (Credit: Raleigh News & Observer)

DePyssler of N.C. Central Wins Award for J-Educators

Bruce DePyssler of North Carolina Central University has won the 2009 Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship, awarded in recognition of an educator’s outstanding efforts to encourage students of color in the field of journalism, the National Conference of Editorial Writers has announced.

DePyssler is an associate professor of English and mass communication who advises the the Campus Echo. the student newspaper. 

In nominating him, Michele Ware, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts at the historically black university, said, "To be quite frank, our major in Mass Communication would not exist today without Bruce DePyssler’s dedication, energy, and professionalism."

The award is to be presented at the editorial writers' annual convention, to be held Sept. 23-29 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Since 2000, an honorarium of $1,000 has been awarded the Bingham recipient, to be used to "further work in progress or begin a new project."

Journal-isms readers were among those who nominated candidates.

North Carolina Central, located in Durham, N.C., was the focus of national attention in 2006 after allegations that three white players on Duke University's lacrosse team raped a black woman who took classes at NCCU whom they hired to strip at an off-campus party. The media drew comparisons between the elite Duke and the nation's first publicly funded liberal arts college for black students, created during segregation. The woman's allegations proved not to be true.

Vanessa Gezari of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times wrote a piece then about how DePyssler and the Campus Echo grappled with the controversy.

Six Blacks at Syracuse, N.Y., Paper Take Buyouts

About 25 newsroom employees have accepted buyouts at the Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard, editor and publisher Stephen A. Rogers told Journal-isms, including six African Americans. Newspaper-wide, 80 are leaving, Rogers said, leaving the newsroom with about 350 people.

One of those exiting said the departures will leave five blacks in the newsroom. The buyouts are staggered, effective at the beginnings of July, August and SepteSaundra Smokes mber.

The news came as executives at the Gannett Co., the nation‚Äôs largest newspaper company, said Gannett will go through another round of layoffs soon, with an announcement possible in the next few days, as Richard P?©rez-Pe?±a reported in the New York Times.

At the Post-Standard, a Newhouse-owned paper, the six African Americans include Saundra Smokes, veteran editorial writer; urban affairs editor Maureen Sieh; sports copy editor Sterling Gray, copy editors Gina Ogden and Gwen Karpeh and editorial assistant Susan Royal.

Rogers, a former board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said, "We've had a very strong record with diversity and the fact that the people of color are leaving is a concern for all of us. We believe in having as diverse a staff as we can," and would rehire with that in mind when the paper is in a position to do so.

Ogden, a copy editor on the news desk, told Journal-isms she was leaving after 18 years in various positions at the paper, including assistant managing editor of features.  Her section "was named one of the top 20 features sections in the country two years in a row under my leadership. I moved to the news desk a year ago to care for my young daughter and ailing mother," she said, adding, "I plan to take the summer off and launch a business in the fall with my husband."

Smokes worked at the newspaper for 18 years, then left for eight years before returning in 2003.

"I write editorials (my second stint on the editorial board; was first woman and person of color to sit on the board)," she said in offering a short biography. "I've also been a columnist, feature writer and copy editor. (I was supposed to return to full-time column writing in 2003, but liked the anonymous nature of editorials). I wrote a syndicated column for United Feature Syndicate for seven years and contributed columns to USA Today.

"I plan to spend more time with my 13-year-old and 17-year-old and pursue some writing projects, including finishing a tween book."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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