Jet, the magazine that was an essential part of the African-American conversation for many decades, celebrates its 60th anniversary this week. To reach this admirable milestone, the pocket-sized weekly has survived economic downturns, turmoil at parent company Johnson Publishing and technology changes that have affected all publishers.
The cover of the 60th-anniversary issue, which comes out on Thursday, features President Barack Obama. He is one of 10 African Americans celebrated in the article "Living the Dream," according to Tia Brown, the magazine's senior editor. Others in the article include Oprah Winfrey, the Rev. T.D. Jakes, Beyoncé and Queen Latifah. "These are people who have been able to achieve the ultimate level of success," says Brown.
Jet has not hesitated to acknowledge the recurring features that made it so successful in its day. This issue includes a retrospective of the "Jet Beauty of the Week," which delivered a full-page photograph of a girl-next-door type in every issue. Brown says that the magazine wanted to show how fashion and beauty standards had changed over time, with photos of women taken from every decade going back to the 1960s in the special issue.
The magazine has always offered a mix of serious and not-so-serious news. This issue illustrates that range, with an article highlighting the 10 public policies that have most affected African Americans, such as Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But there are also references to other topics covered in the past, such as singer Barry White proclaiming that he had lost 100 pounds, and a photo of twins, one white and one black. "Jet has been a balance of things that are serious and things that are titillating," Brown acknowledges.
Many people read Jet stealthily rather than publicly, but for a long time the tiny publication was an unmatchable source of news about a community that was largely ignored in the mainstream media. That changed as large newspapers integrated their coverage and with the advent of BET, NewsOne and other Internet news and gossip sites aimed at African-American readers. But with a weekly circulation still officially touted at 800,000, Jet has managed to hang in there. May it live long and prosper.
You can read Jet's online version here.
Joel Dreyfuss is managing editor of The Root.