When news broke over the weekend that the Johnson Publishing Company was selling its archive of black images in hopes of raising $40 million dollars, many within the black community lamented over the media company’s financial hardship. One writer, however, recalls the selfishness with which Johnson Publishing lorded control over the images and wonders if the company’s current predicament is just bad karma.
Zondra Hughes wrote that she experienced the selfishness first hand when she was an associate editor for Ebony in 2005.
Hughes recalls how she traveled to New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina to photograph student models at Dillard University as part of a story she was working on.
After the photo shoot, she thanked the unpaid students for their time, and offered them her business card. Once the hurricane hit, some of the students messaged her asking for help and Hughes says she was shocked by Ebony’s reaction.
“Several of the young women that we photographed were stranded at a shelter, and they needed assistance,” Hughes wrote.
One student said, “if there is anyone that could help us, I knew Ebony could.”
Hughes sent a memo to Ebony, where the request for help was ignored. Jet didn’t help either:
“I sent the memo to a colleague at the sister publication Jet magazine, because at the time, there was an ongoing promotion for Ebony.com and the Jet promo team was handling it. The promo was a college care kit giveaway–and surely we could send a few of those. The college care kits contained shampoo, soap, treats, etc., that the young women sorely needed. That request was DENIED.”
The only help offered was for “discontinued Fashion Fair lipstick.”
If that weren’t bad enough, the public relations office at Dillard reached out to Ebony again, this time asking for some of the pictures taken by Ebony, since the magazine took the last pictures of the university before the hurricane hit. Request denied (again). All this causes Hughes to wonder if Johnson Publishing being forced to sell its archives is just bad karma.