By Robin Givhan
Desirée Rogers, the former White House social secretary, has been named chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing, the company announced Tuesday.
Rogers will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Chicago-based firm that publishes Ebony and Jet magazines. Linda Johnson Rice, the daughter of company founder John H. Johnson — who died in 2005 — will continue as chairman.
As CEO, Rogers will focus on "aligning core business strategies for all brands," according to a company statement. That's a rather opaque way of saying that she will have to figure out how to take the legacy of Johnson Publishing, founded in 1945, and transform it into something viable in today's competitive media environment in which a host of publications and Web sites have muscled in on territory it once owned.
For generations, Johnson Publishing was the premiere media corporation focused on news and culture for and about African Americans. Its traveling style spectacle, "Ebony Fashion Fair," helped raise more than $50 million in scholarships for black students. And it launched the career of iconic model Pat Cleveland. Jet magazine famously published images of the disfigured corpse of Emmett Till, whose death helped to fuel the civil rights movement.
Johnson remains the largest African-American-owned publishing house, but like much of the established media, it has struggled to hold on to both readers and revenue. Under creative director Harriette Cole, who also served briefly as editor-in-chief, Ebony underwent an enormous redesign that brought a more modern look to the lifestyle magazine. Its profile rose thanks to its timely coverage of Barack Obama and the historic nature of his presidency, and from interviews with performers such as Prince and Michael Jackson — one of the last before his death.
For the entire story in The Washington Post, click here.