EXCLUSIVE: Ebony, revived digitally March 1, will have a base in Atlanta

Michele Ghee (left) and Eden Bridgeman are running the newly revived Ebony and Jet brands. Michele Ghee (Photos by Maya Dasaraw, left, and Erik Branch)
Caption
Michele Ghee (left) and Eden Bridgeman are running the newly revived Ebony and Jet brands. Michele Ghee (Photos by Maya Dasaraw, left, and Erik Branch)

Credit: (L-Maya Dasaraw and R- Erik Branch)

Credit: (L-Maya Dasaraw and R- Erik Branch)

Jet is coming back in June

Ebony and Jet magazines, based in Chicago for decades, will have a major presence in Atlanta, the company announced Monday.

Both magazines filed for bankruptcy liquidation in June, 2020, and the assets were sold to Bridgeman Sports and Media for $14 million from Clear View Group, a private equity firm. Former NBA star Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman and his family also run restaurant franchises and a Coca-Cola bottling group.

Bridgeman’s 34-year-old daughter Eden Bridgeman was tasked with running the two brands. She in turn hired veteran media executive Michele Ghee last month to oversee the day-to-day operations of Jet and Ebony.

The Ebony website relaunched Monday at noon. Jet will start again on June 1.

“We want to showcase American history from the past 75 years,” said Eden Bridgeman in an exclusive interview Monday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “People have kept boxes of old Ebony and Jet magazines. It means something to them. It means something to our culture. It’s a legacy that needs to continue. We want to be able to sustain the brands for generations to come and remain a voice for our culture.”

She said they hope to expand the two brands beyond just a digital media property and use them in other ways such as branded conferences, shows and festivals.

The executives have not decided definitively on where official headquarters will be, but they are planning a major presence in Atlanta, where the new chief financial officer is based. For now, newly hired employees are working remotely during the pandemic. They plan to lease or purchase office space in metro Atlanta at a later date.

Currently, Ghee lives in New Jersey while Bridgeman is based out of Columbus, Ohio. But they plan to spend a lot of time in Atlanta.

“Atlanta is the birthplace of the civil rights movement and the current epicenter of Black culture,” Ghee said. “I worked at CNN for six years and I’d come down every month. I understand how important this community is as it relates to content and content production. Think about the past election and how the city moved an entire nation. We are aware of that. We know how important it is to have a major presence there.”

Ghee, who has worked at the Weather Channel and BET as well, said as a little Black girl in Oakland, California, in the 1960s and 1970s, she would read Ebony on Sundays and stories from the magazine would be grist for conversation during Sunday dinner. “It was our source of news,” she said. “So this is a full-circle moment for me.”

Both Ebony, which launched in 1945, and Jet, which launched in 1951, became pillars of African-American culture, documenting the civil rights movement, the biggest Black stars of the day and the shifting fashion scene. Black entrepreneur John H. Johnson ran the magazines for decades.

Ebony was a more in-depth magazine, modeled early on after Life magazine and featured an annual “100 Most Influential Blacks” list. Jet was a smaller-format, quicker read style and was known for its “Jet Beauty of the Week.”

But like a lot of magazines, both suffered from aging demographics and erosion of their ad base.

Jet’s final print edition came out in 2014 while Ebony last printed an issue in 2019.

Bridgeman believes both brands still carry a lot of power, even in 2021, as long as they are leveraged properly. She sees Jet targeting a young demographic with Ebony remaining the standard-bearer for news and commentary.

Without providing specifics, Ghee said she wants to shore up the foundations of both brands before building them out. Her three buckets of inspiration are bold, brilliant and beloved.

“The bold is the hard news, the politics and news that will move your life,” Ghee said. “The brilliant is the culture and lifestyle pieces. The beloved is our tradition of uplifting and educating our readers.”

They hired three former Ebony/Jet employees who understand the history of the brand and will use a coterie of freelancers to fill out the website. They also hired a social media expert to ensure the brands get seen on social media.

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