Ebony’s Woes Continue with ‘Thumbs Down’ NABJ Award

by: Kamau High AFRO Managing Editor khigh@afro.com
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Ebony, the storied Black magazine now facing a tumultuous future [http://www.afro.com/layoffs-latest-blow-storied-part-black-culture/], received another body blow in the form of a shaming award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) for allegedly not paying its writers.

The magazine, which was sold in 2016 by its founders, the Johnson family, has been accused of not paying its freelance writers for long periods of time. On July 13, the NABJ issued a press release naming Ebony a winner of its “Thumbs Down” award.

“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,” according to the release.

This is not the first time the NABJ has taken aim at Ebony. On July 12 the organization announced that it was offering free “hardship registrations” to Ebony freelancers who want to attend the NABJ convention in New Orleans in August. Part of the convention includes a career fair and workshops.

After Ebony writer Jagger Blaec wrote about not being paid by the magazine in April [https://theestablishment.co/why-isnt-ebony-paying-its-black-writers-b6195bd1054e] the hashtag #Ebonyowes began trending with people using it to share their stories of not being paid for their work at the company.

In addition, on July 12, the National Writers Union announced it will be suing the magazine over the lack of payment to freelancers. The union said a group of Ebony freelancers were owed as much as $200,000.

The NABJ also gave Fox News a “Thumbs Down” award. “FOX News was selected for numerous reasons. In addition to lawsuits accusing the cable news network of ‘abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination,’ there have also been allegations of sexual harassment.  Additionally, the lack of diversity in key positions, is a major concern for NABJ,” according to the statement.

Previous organizations singled out for shaming by the NABJ include all of cable news for not putting African Americans on air in primetime broadcasts in 2012 and cancelling the show “Tell Me More,” which was about diversity, in 2014.

“Many of the decisions being made by Ebony’s new owners seem counter to the vision of founder John H. Johnson,” said NABJ Vice President of Print Marlon A. Walker in a statement. “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.”

Ebony did not return a request for comment by press time.

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