Shots fired! The National Association of Black Journalists on Thursday named Ebony magazine (along with Fox News) as its choice for its annual Thumbs Down Award, which puts on blast anyone or any organization that does something especially bad to black people or black journalists.
In a release sent via email and widely shared on social media, the organization said that the Thumbs Down Award “is presented annually to an individual or organization for especially insensitive, racist or stereotypical reporting, commentary, photography or cartoon about the black community or for engaging in practices at odds with the goals of the National Association of Black Journalists.”
In the release, NABJ President Sarah Glover said, “We take this award very seriously. It is our hope that the recipients would re-evaluate their policies and procedures to ensure that they are following the highest journalistic and ethical standards.”
One would think that one of our own would never find itself on this list, but because this is the year Ebony magazine changed its motto to “Hold my beer!” here we are.
As previously reported on The Root, an article by writer Jagger Blaec and the subsequent #EbonyOwes hashtag exposed the fact that Ebony had not been paying its freelancers for quite some time. While Ebony issued a public statement acknowledging the problem and claiming to be “working diligently” to fix it, its social media team began blocking writers who were discussing the issue on Twitter. Then, in early May, news broke that Ebony was laying off a third of its staff, closing down its original headquarters in Chicago and relocating to Los Angeles to share space and resources with sister publication Jet magazine.
NABJ’s email indicated that it chose Ebony because under the magazine’s new owners, Clear View Group, the publication has made headlines for the staff cuts, relocation and “its very public and sometimes offensive responses to reports of late or nonpayment for work already performed by staff or freelance journalists.”
NABJ Vice President of Print Marlon A. Walker said in the release, “Many of the decisions being made by Ebony’s new owners seem counter to the vision of founder John H. Johnson. Ebony and its sister publication Jet are near and dear to us. To hear writers whose words bring us much joy aren’t being paid for those words is sad, unconscionable, unacceptable.
“Johnson is probably rolling in his grave,” Walker added.
I’m sure he is.
Fox News was also named as a recipient of the award, but no one is surprised by that. The news organization has been revealed in recent months to be the very “sexual harassment enterprise” your Auntie Maxine said it was, and NABJ cites the accusations of “abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination” as another reason the network was chosen for the award.
“It seems Fox has allowed a very unhealthy environment to fester,” NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Dorothy Tucker said. “There has to be a level of accountability and it starts at the top. Management has to do better.”
NABJ suggests that Fox News address its work culture and diversity issues, and says that Ebony must pay its writers and “work to rebuild its image after several alarming missteps.”
In other words, get your shit together, Ebony. We were rooting for you. We were all rooting for you.