This week, Johnson Publications announced the end of the Print edition of Jet Magazine. Sad to see another Black institution fall due to the carelessness of Black people.
I bought Jet quite a bit in late 1989-1990. For the articles about celebrities, Black businesspeople , theBeauty of the Week And to see what Black people are on TV. I used to read Jet, Ebony, and Ebony Man back in the day.
I admit I didn’t buy Jet much after high school, But that was for two reasons: One I just couldn’t find it. The digest sized magazine was never on the rack with the comics.
And the other reason I didn’t buy Jet was the dumbed down language of its content. Even at 16, I had a serious issue with many of Johnson’s publications. At that young age I quickly noticed that the reading level of the content was dumbed down to about a third or fourth grade reading level. As a teenager I devoured words and I loved content that allowed me to expand my vocabulary.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that in an issue of Jet. Yeah, the beauty of the week was always sexy, but I wanted to expand my knowledge too.
One of the big problems Black publications like Jet or Ebony have is that they just don’t challenge the reader. Magazines like Ebony and Jet don’t adapt to a larger audience, so as the audience of readers tastes change they leave the magazine on the rack. There’s only so many stories you can read about Black celebrities or pictures you can look at rich Black people showing off their homes and cars.
The publishing world changed in 2008. But Johnson publications, the publishers of Ebony and Jet still produce content fit for 1986 at best.
Seriously, look at other nonblack magazines like GQ, Cosmopolitan, More, and even Playboy. Where are the short stories? The novel excerpts? The political and social commentary? The stories about Black history? Black art? Articles on Parenting? Ebony and Jet were supposed to show Black readers the Black world. Unfortunately their picture of it was always a shallow one focused too heavily on celebrities.
Who needs to read a magazine about a celebrity when there’s Google?
The other big problem with Black publications such as Ebony and Jet is that they haven’t adapted to the times. In an information age most Black magazines are still talking about celebrity gossip and telling us about the comings and goings of rich Negroes like it’s 1945. That’s not what people pay to read about anymore. I can go to a dozen YouTube Channels featuring Black people and get more substantive and relevant information than in any of today’s Black magazine. Heck, readers have come to this blog for more substantive and relevant information than in most Black magazines.
Yes we need Black publishers like Johnson to control the image of Black people. That’s the only way positive images of Black people are going to be presented to the world. Unfortunately, Black publishers like Johnson are just not ready for a 21st Century world of publishing where content is king. The days of fluffy content like soul food recipes, and celebrities bragging and showing off their toys isn’t going to move magazines off the rack or get many hits on a webpage. In a world where content is king and information moves at the speed of light, Black publishers are going to have to produce more thought-provoking content like I’ve seen on YouTube Channels such as The Black Authority, Voire Dire, and The Iceman.
I hate to see Jet off the stands. But I’ve come to understand that Black people have to stop taking their institutions for granted. In order for us to preserve our storied brands we have to value them and give the next generation a reason to care about them.