Ebony Magazine Reportedly Fires Online Editorial Staff Without Pay

The online editorial team at Ebony Magazine is reportedly no more. A new report by The Root claims that two sources confirmed that the publication fired its digital staff on June 7 without pay.

Joshua David, the magazine’s former social media director and another unnamed source told The Root that Elizabeth Burnett, vice president of operations of Clear View Group, LLC, fired three writers, one videographer, and David during a phone call. The Austin-based investor group, which owns Ebony and its sister publication Jet, did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.David told The Root that he began to have concerns about Ebony when his superiors refused to answer allegations that it was not paying freelance writers. Journalist Jagger Blaec first reported the allegations in a piece for The Establishment called “Why Isn’t ‘Ebony’ Paying Its Black Writers?”

Blaec’s report found that close to a dozen writers had not been paid for work dating back to 2013. The allegations prompted a social media campaign by unpaid freelance writers called #EbonyOwes.

On May 30, David received an email from human resources informing him that there would be a “delay in payroll” the day before he was set to receive his paycheck. The email, which he provided to The Root, said the company was experiencing a delay in receiving expected capital.“We are writing to all employees to apologize for this situation. We are working diligently with our capital source to get the payroll processed as soon as possible next week,” the May 30 email said. “Thank you for your patience and understanding, and again, we apologize for this paycheck delay and for any inconvenience it may cause. We greatly value your hard work and efforts on behalf of our company.”However, David said there was no confirmation as to when the staff would receive compensation.

The pay delay prompted the digital editorial staff to launch a work stoppage until they were paid for their work, both sources said. But on June 7, the entire digital editorial staff was locked out of several company accounts and then terminated over the phone. Neither source has received their overdue paychecks or severance pay, The Root reported. Ebony could not be reached for comment. Willard Jackson, who is listed as the vice chairman of the board at the magazine, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.While discussing the latest firings and her investigative report, Blaec revealed that lawyers and publicists from Ebony threatened to have her blackballed and sued. Jackson also messaged her following the article, calling her “one of those reporters that like to tear down Black businesses.”Jackson claimed he had no knowledge of unpaid work. “Missing funds? Exploited? Of course they are all getting paid. We bought the business to turn around all this stuff,” he wrote to her.

“It was a scary time,” Blaec told The North Star. “Here was this historic Black institution within our community exploiting Black writers. People were afraid of being ostracized or damaging their careers for speaking out.” She said she was not surprised to hear of the latest firings.

Despite being threatened, Blaec tweeted on June 20 that “it was more important to help amplify these writers.” Blaec told The North Star that writers of color are disproportionately compensated for their work. She said that she’s experienced not being paid on time, but “as a Black writer you fear being labeled as difficult for advocating for yourself and you want your work to be seen.”

Johnson Publishing Company founded Ebony magazine in 1945. In 2016, Clear View Group, LLC purchased the magazine, along with its sister publication Jet, and placed them under Ebony Media Operations, LLC (EMO).

On April 9, Johnson Publishing Company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after failing to restructure, obtain alternative financing, or sell the company. EMO said at the time that the bankruptcy filing would not impact either publication.The historic photo archive of Ebony magazine is set to go on the auction block in July if approved by a Chicago bankruptcy court, NBC News reported. The collection, which has 4 million images chronicling the Civil Rights Movement and the lives of prominent Black Americans, was once appraised at $46 million. It is up for auction to help pay off the secured creditors of Johnson Publishing.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.