Pros: Well-written articles, celebrity interviews/photographs, attractive covers, entertaining relationship columns, black history/culture, style/fashion, social issues, inexpensive
Cons: Too many cigarette and liquor ads, needs more in-depth departments and more sophisticated content
Over a year ago, Ebony magazine began arriving as a complementary subscription for our waiting room. After a couple of months I became curious about its contents. Since I'm not a Black American, I previously hadn't paid much attention to Ebony. Here are my impressions of Ebony magazine after reading all the many back issues I had.
Ebony is geared toward the culture and interests of Black Americans. Ebony is published by Blacks for Blacks. The magazine incorporates Black World Magazine. The topics in the magazine are quite varied: advice, beauty, culture, education, entertainment, family, fashion, finance, sports, health/fitness, recipes and social issues. The magazine also highlights the most successful Black Americans in the fields of music, politics, sports, entertainment and business among others. There are frequent inspiring articles about Black leadership and achievement. In honor of Black History Month, I have chosen the February issue to highlight - the Annual Black Love/Black History issue. The issue celebrates both Valentine's Day & Black History Month. Other months also are special issues devoted to certain topics. October, for example, is the annual issue highlighting women's health.
Each month, covers of Ebony feature successful Blacks. Popular celebrities are an important part of Ebony and celebrities usually appear on covers. The covers are always vibrant and captivating. They entice readers to purchase issues. In February, four of the "Ten Hottest Couples" are pictured in tender poses. The couples are all popular personalities. The inside 6-pages story includes an additional photo of each couple and a long interesting paragraph explaining how they met, proposed and how long they have been together. This is a perfect Valentine's Day piece for a February issue. January's cover features musician and superstar Lenny Kravitz. Inside we learn all about his music, his life and his daughter. Several additional cover articles are listed on every cover to draw readers' attention and interest. The December issue's cover is on Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds and his family. The beautiful four-page article contains 6 additional touching photos of the Edmonds family.
The covers are very successful. The magazine has a nice layout. Articles, even large special sections, are usually completed on succeeding pages. Readers do not have to thumb through pages to complete articles. I wish the Table of Contents were on facing pages for easier scrutiny.
Ebony has 14+ departments. Interestingly, there are no letters from the editor. Two popular departments are Sisterspeak and For Brothers Only. Both are interesting and entertaining editorial columns. Sisterspeak written by Laura Randolf Lancaster usually offers Valentine?s Day gift selection advice to Brothers in February issues. This month however, the columnist tells Sisters "10 Things Men Wish Women Knew." Men don't really care about store bought gifts. They want something more personal. Number 2 is pretty cute. It says, "Sunday equals sports. Not one game. Not two games. All the games." Number 8 says, "A TV screen can never be too big. It's the room that is too small." While the column is really cute there is nothing new here for women. Every woman I know knows exactly what men want. Men are very transparent. Sorry guys! In last month's issue, she talks about the importance of being thankful for the good things in our lives. In December she covered "25 Ways We're Different This Christmas." Women will enjoy this entertaining column.
For Brothers Only department has its heart in all the right places. It always urges Brothers to respect love and give of themselves wholeheartedly in their relationships with women. How can you knock great advice like that? I can't, but, I think the columns are too schmaltzy. As a woman, though, I still enjoy them. This month Brothers are told to value their women as if they were precious jewelry. The article is "From Glassman to Diamond Keeper" by Kevin Chappell. Last month there was a better column written by the managing editor Walter Leavy also on being more sensitive and tender with the woman in your life. These are good strong message to send men. I wonder how many men read them, though? December has a good editorial on "What I Really Want For Christmas" by Chappell - an orderly life. The Ebony Advisor is a one-page advice column on love and relationships. It is a popular Q & A type column that appears regularly but is not in the February issue. Recent Qs & As have been on religious differences, marital intimacy and infidelity.
The Letters to the Editor department usually contains around 10 interesting letters from readers. Most of them comment on articles in previous issues and a few even criticize the magazine. The February's issues publishes three letters concerning the earlier feature, "56 Intriguing Blacks of 2001." One letter questions if several powerful and successful Blacks were omitted from the list simply because of politics - good question! Another reader names some of her nominees that were left out.
Date with a Dish is a food department. What concerns me is that the recipes are not lite or nutrition conscious. The directions are simple and easy to follow. The dishes are uncomplicated and usually fast to prepare. This month the recipes are "Comfort Food for Body & Soul." Perhaps the selection of comfort foods is a search for solace in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Here are all your favorites from childhood: meat loaf and mashed potatoes, barbecued chicken wings, hamburgers & French fries, baked macaroni & cheese, caramel fudge cake and beef stew. Serving sizes (usually 6-8) and nutritional information are included. The meat loaf has 422+ calories and 927 MG of Sodium. The Caramel fudge Cake has a whopping 2,191 calories, 82.5 G Total Fat and 3,962 MG. of Sodium. January's issue covered some interesting Caribbean recipes. The recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken can be found on the Website if you are interested. The December issue has 12 delicious recipes for Kwanzaa. Following the Kwanzaa recipes there is also a five-page article complete with photographs on 6 Black celebrities and their favorite holiday recipes. Nutritional information is not listed for these recipes.
Fashion Flair department has hot fashion wear for women but readers have to be very slim and young to carry them off well. These outfits will certainly make you stand out in a crowd! Talented Black designers create the form fitting bold outfits. A couple of them are extremely short. No prices are listed but they look very expensive. I wonder why prices aren't listed? The models are beautiful. The December issue's article, "The Changing Trends of Fashion" has more far-out fashions for those daring and sophisticated to wear them.
Men get their own fashion section under Men's Fashion. "What the Sharpest Dressers are Wearing" is this month's article. The men's fashions are, for the most part, more conservative than the fashions for women except one outfit-a traditional Scottish Kilt (February.) Although young Black men are known for their individual fashion flair, a Black man, or any man for that matter, would have to be pretty confident and daring to show up at a party wearing this ensemble. I can't imagine a male wearing this to work. Again, no prices are listed for the men's fashions, either.
The Beauty & Style department for The New Black Man & Woman also carries fashion advice, this month it is on "Power Suits." I liked all these selections. These truly can be worn to important executive meetings. They are classic, stylish and polished. They look comfortable but very expensive. The three-page article is also informative, well written and illustrated. Again there is no pricing information.
Sounding Off department covers the Best in Recorded Music of Black recording artists. The one page covers mostly accomplished musicians. In February's issue, read about Jill Scott, Experience Jill Scott 826+ (Hidden Beach,) Jermaine Dupre, Doggy Bag and Warren G, The Return of the Regulator. The featured music has a descriptive paragraph including information on the music and the artist as well as a picture. I think each paragraph is just too brief to really get a feel for the music. A long list of other music and recording artists are simply noted in a paragraph below, which is hard to read with white lettering against a purple background with titles highlighted in yellow. I didn't even bother with the listing since it was too jumbled together. I'm sure,though, that the musicians appreciate seeing their names and work mentioned.
House Calls department gives solid answers to readers' questions on health and fitness. The three questions this month deal with Cholesterol, Emphysema and Early Puberty. I wish that this department were longer than one page. Body Talk is another department, which doesn't appear in the February issue but is a good department that covers Black health and Fitness topics. In December it covers indoor workout classes. Three large photos accompany the three-page article.
Like House Calls, I also wish the Money Talk$ department were longer than one page. I'd also like to see a little more technical information imparted here. This month the topic is "Dating and Dollars: New Rules For New Times." In case you're interested the writer says that whoever asks for the date, pays. She also advises discussing the financial aspect of the date beforehand. Don't wait until the bill arrives. The December issue lists 5 ways to protect your finances in these uncertain times. The common sense advice has nothing new to offer but is sound and bears repeating.
The Travel Guide Department is still another department that is too brief and should be expanded. It is simply a brief listing of what's happening in 15+ cities and several Caribbean Islands. This month, the events center on Black History Month celebrations, Carnival and Mardi Gras. December listed activities and events for Christmas and Kwanzaa. I'd like to see more detailed coverage on some of these events, or, at least, one of these events.
Speaking of People department features role models of successful Blacks. This month there are two men honored - a CEO and Symphony Orchestra President, & a Leasepan USA Senior Vice President and one woman-a Reebok Vice President. The Black Americans featured here are usually highly successful people-many in high managerial positions. They are photographed at their job locations and brief information is given about their position, education and family life. I wish the coverage on each individual could be more detailed maybe mentioning some of the obstacles they had to overcome to get where they are today. The December issue has a very sad article remembering Black victims of the 9/11 tragedy. Two eleven-year-old boys are featured along with a flight attendant and the co-pilot of United Airlines flight 93.
Ebony Bookshelf is a one-page department covering notable print releases by Black authors. The subject matter of the books will interest Blacks. People of other races would certainly get an inside perspective of Black culture and history if they read these books. IN OUR OWN IMAGE by Patrick Henry Bass ($30) sounds like a wonderful chronicle of Black American Culture from 1945 to the present. It contains 300+ images and bits of memorabilia. I haven't read it but I'll check it out at my local bookstore. Don't expect to see themes of poverty and hardship, though. This is a different kind of story. This month the Top Shelf has a collection of 4 excellent selections each costing about $25. The Author Spotlight is on comedian Bernie Mac's new book, I AIN'T SCARED OF YOU: BERNIE MAC ON HOW LIFE IS. Since I know one of the writers of his TV show THE BERNIE MAC SHOW, I'm going to check out this book. There is also a very brief interview with the popular comedian. It should be longer.
Strictly for Laughs is a funny department that will bring a smile to your face. The three cartoons feature figures of color saying funny lines of Black humor. It keeps the magazine on the light side. I always get a chuckle out of them.
This month there is also a listing of the Gertrude Johnson Williams Literary Contest Winners. How nice that the winners get their names in print! Aspiring writers submitted short stories to Ebony and a committee of editors chose the final winners. Gertrude Johnson Williams was a former publisher of Ebony magazine. Her son founded the Johnson Publishing Co., which publishes Ebony magazine. He started with a loan of $500 based on her furniture. It's wonderful that the magazine recognizes and encourages aspiring writers!
The rest of the magazine contains features on different topics. Many articles are similar to topics readers would find in women's Lifestyles Magazines but they are all geared toward black readers and about successful Blacks. Mainly popular celebrities in sports, corporate and the entertainment fields are highlighted in features. Some popular Black celebrities never appear in issues. Sometimes up and coming entertainers are featured. Occasionally, even Caucasians are covered.
In last month's issue, "Star Power" is an excellent feature about Sean Combs, Michael Jackson, Destiny's Child, and Michael Jordan. Also read about Will Smith star of the movie, "Muhammad Ali." "Q on Camera" is all about Quincy Jones who is celebrating over 50 years in show business. This month there is a success story about young Black directors, "From Hell To Training Day." The three-page feature has several good close-up photos of the directors and the story is interesting to read.
Some features such as "How to Raise Drug Free Children"(Nov) will interest all parents regardless of race. Still other features deal with topics of interest mainly to Blacks such as "Black & Blond" (Dec) about Black Americans wearing their hair blonde. Recent parenting topics about how to raise Black boys and "Why Black Mothers are Falling Behind in Breast-Feeding" are geared mainly to Blacks but others will find them interesting reading as well. I did.
Some features deal with relationships and Black love. In January, women readers received useful tips on "7 Ways to Blow his Mind." This month there is equal time for male readers with "7 Ways to Blow her Mind." The fourth tip (very expensive) suggests picking her up in a limo and taking her away from it all on a weekend retreat. In addition, the suggestion involves sending her two deliveries of long stemmed red roses and packing her suitcase for her. Limos are pretty expensive these days - so are weekend getaways. (Personally, I wouldn't trust my husband to pack my suitcase for me.) I'm afraid single men who do this may lead their women to believe there is a marriage proposal coming so guys be careful. I guess Ebony's readers must be pretty affluent. It IS very romantic but a little too materialistic and contrived for my tastes.
Personally I prefer tip 5, which is to cook a four-course meal and naturally use good china, linens, flowers and candles. This suggestion is less extravagant, more personal, I think, and greatly less expensive. Another feature article under Black Love is "Top Weddings of the Year." This seven-page feature comes complete with some lovely wedding photographs of celebrated personalities in Entertainment. Everyone loves seeing brides and these Black brides are beautiful.
The articles I enjoyed most are about Black History and culture. In February's issue, under Black History there is an article on "The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters" that honors the dedicated men who became the first Black union to sign a major corporate contract(August 25, 1937.) Four black and white photos accompany the two-page article. Another article on Black History is "10 Most Important Figures in African American History." The 6-page article is a series of 10 black & white photos with a short sentence explaining why each person is included. I think the choices are good. Naturally, Martin Luther King, Jr. is first. Finally, "Chronicles of Black Courage" is the inspiring story of Mary McLeod Bethune who despite setbacks and little money realized her dream of establishing a school for Black Girls. As an educator, I loved every word of this four-page story. Another recent inspiring story for Blacks is "From Homelessness To Med School To Medals to Millions" in the December 2001 issue. It is about four Blacks who overcome adversity and become millionaires.
This month under Special Section is a series of four articles (12 pages) for Black males. They cover The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), the oldest Black intercollegiate athletic conference, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Read about the traditions, the legends and the CIAA Hall of Fame followed by a Calendar of Events. Fans of collegiate baseball will enjoy the action shots and other color and b/w photographs that accompany the articles. Other recent sports articles are, "He's Back! Did Michael Jordan do the Right Thing?" and "Is the Black Quarterback Boom Real?" The August issue has a wonderful special issue on "The New Harlem."
Some features are on coping with life. This month read an article about dealing with personal crises. It's a touchingly sad story about the family of a young man who died when terrorist crashed a plane into the Pentagon. A three-page article, "3 at the Top" follows. It discusses how corporate leaders are dealing with the 9/11 crises. The article stresses their qualities of endurance, compassion and teamwork. The December issue has a two-part 9-page section on the 9/11 crisis. It discusses the roles Black Americans played in the aftermath of the crisis. It also contains editorials written by four very prominent Black Leaders explaining what the crisis means to them.
There are also family articles. This month there is an inside look at how two ordinary working parents raise their three girls. Last month there was one about a Chicago couple raising twins. I'd like to see more parenting articles and advice every month.
I also enjoyed the feature article/debate on "Was Cleopatra Black?" The information is interesting-so are the photos. Of course the question isn't answered because no one knows for sure. Other well written recent feature articles are about home improvement (Dec,) cars (Nov,) education (Sept,) religion (Dec,) and leadership (Dec.)
Johnson Publishing Co., which publishes Ebony magazine, is the world's largest Black publishing Company. It is also the # 1 Black owned publishing company. The company began publishing Ebony 57 years ago. The magazine is still going strong today. The company also publishes the sister magazine, Jet. Also part of the company is Fashion Fair Cosmetics, Supreme Beauty Products, Ebony Fashion Flair and Johnson Publishing Co. Book Division.
There isn't too much on the Website, www.ebony.com. Subscribe online-12 issues for $16.97-the same price that is on the postcard insert in issues. That brings the newsstand price of $2.75 to under $1.41. Get an even better deal right from this Epinions.com site. Links to other sites from here offer a subscription for only $14.97. This is a very good price for Ebony magazine.
Although the magazine is for Africans Americans, personally, I wonder how many Black men go out and buy Ebony magazine? Women write most of the letters to the editor. The magazine looks like it is really geared toward Black women although I admit it does include sports and automobile articles, relationship column and fashion news for men. In addition, many ads are aimed at Black males. I'll bet unless a sports figure appears on the cover, most purchasers are women. Their men though will probably read a few articles once the magazine is in the home. I doubt they read whole issues. Maybe I'm wrong. If I am, let me know.
I have a gripe about the ads. Yes, there are plenty of ads - a little less than half the magazine is advertising but other magazines have the same amount or more ads. What I mainly object to is the quantity of liquor and cigarette ads. Crown Royal Blended Canadian Whiskey, Grand Marnier Cognac, Beefeater Gin, Bacardi Rum, Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, Christian Brothers Brandy, Hennessy Cognac and Miller Brewing Co all run ads in Ebony although not all of them appear in every issue. The Miller ad in February's issue is selling a "Power in the Press" Tee shirt not beer but the company's name is still out there. Three cigarette companies, Newport, Omni and Kool also have ads.
I once called up a woman's magazine I subscribed to and complained about a two-page cigarette ad that it carried - in an issue covering cancer. I was told that the magazine needs the revenues from the cigarette industry to survive. So, probably this is truer for Ebony. By accepting the ads the magazine implies that the products receive its endorsement. Ebony is an inexpensive magazine, as it is. Does it really need so much advertising from these types of companies? The rest of the ads are for mostly Black beauty products, DVDs, books and films. Most ads use Black models. Other companies not selling specific products for Blacks also use Black models in their ads-companies like McDonalds, Sears, Wal-Mart and the big automobile and food companies.
I think some of the content could be a little more sophisticated. There is too much emphasis on celebrities. I'd like to read more articles of substance in the magazine in general. Too many of the articles include numbers in their titles such as "56 Most Intriguing...," "7 Ways to...," "10 Hottest Couples," "30 Leaders...," "10 Biggest Killers...," "10 Most Important...," "10 Things Men Wish...," "3 at the Top" and "25 Different Ways..."
I wish some of the departments offered more real information. They publish too much fluff. I would also like to see contact information listed for fashions displayed.
I especially like the Black History articles. I also like the leadership and achievement articles and the family/parenting features. I think it is great that Black Americans have magazines that they can call their own; ones that covers topics of interest to them. Ebony is an especially good one. All in all I liked the magazine. I recommend it mainly to young African-American women. The March issue will be the Annual Woman's Issue. Pick up an issue and decide for yourself if Ebony is for you.