Lynn A. Norment, Walter Leavy and Malcolm West, three of the four managing editors at Ebony and Jet magazines, are accepting buyout offers from Johnson Publishing Co., the affected journalists and others at the company told Journal-isms.
“I’m excited!” said Norment (above), 56, who has been with the privately owned publisher since 1977, arriving from the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Norment served on the board of directors of the National Association of Black Journalists for six years, and chaired both NABJ’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2000 and its 1997 convention in Chicago. She has also been president of the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Johnson Publishing did not respond to a request for comment about the buyouts, which staffers said were offered to those whose age and years of service added up at least to 80. But last February a spokeswoman said, “Like most other publishers, we are experiencing a downtrend in advertising revenue, while production, printing and fulfillment costs have all increased. We have made some changes for greater efficiency of operations which resulted in the elimination of a few selected positions and some layoffs.”
The Washington office manager is said to have taken the buyout; freelancers have said the company is late in making payments, and calls to the formerly tradition-bound main office in Chicago, as with many other firms, are now answered with automated equipment.
Leavy, 55, came to the company in 1980 from the old Memphis Press-Scimitar. He and Norment split the managing editor duties, with Norment largely handling editorial content and Leavy production. “The magazine has never been late one day,” he told Journal-isms, saying his job was to make sure everything in the publication was “where it was supposed to be, when it was supposed to be there.”
Leavy formerly wrote the “For Brothers Only” column in Ebony. He emphasized there was “absolutely nothing negative” about his leaving and said the buyout offer provided “an opportunity to step back and appreciate the contributions I made.”
West, who shares Jet managing editor duties with Mira Lowe, did not respond to telephone calls. But in a 2003 television interview with WLS-TV’s Harry Porterfield, he said of the pocket-sized newsweekly, “I sort of liken the publication of Jet every week to our inviting black America to dinner with Jet. There are several different places where our readers can go to eat. There are different magazines that deal with education, entertainment, sports, but Jet takes the best from each of those publications, periodicals, newspapers, puts them on a plate and serves that up to black America every week, and nobody cooks like Jet. We deal with the most important people, the most important events, the most important places every week.”
Norment told Journal-isms, “I am grateful to Ebony for providing me with many years of wonderful experiences, and the opportunity to meet and interview some of the most renowned newsmakers of our day, including Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. I’ve met and interviewed business leaders as well as community leaders, and of course, celebrities. I’ve had repeat interviews with Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Wynton Marsalis, Al Green, Tom Joyner, to name a few.”
By Richard Prince Journal-isms for Target Market News