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Vanguarde Loses Its Vibe

The Final Issue (DEc.-Jan) of Savoy Magazine

It looks like my girl Angelique won't be getting free Honey magazines in the mail anymore.
More importantly, a profound number of African-American journalists have lost their jobs and are now looking for places where they can practice their craft ::

Vanguarde's Savoy, Heart & Soul and Honey publications shut down; 70-80 staffers were laid off last week.

Staffers at Vanguarde Media -- publisher of the African-American magazines Savoy, Heart & Soul and Honey -- received some bad news before the Thanksgiving holiday. The company announced on Tuesday (Nov. 25) that it would end its publication run and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The December-January issues of the magazines, which all came out 10 times a year, will be the last.

"The company was losing money. It was on a path to profitability," said CEO-chairman Keith Clinkscales who founded the company in 1999 after serving as president and CEO of VIBE magazine. "We had to raise some more money. It was a difficult treadmill in this post-dot-com environment. They were good products. We definitely made some progress journalistically and with advertising. But it's like an airplane; it needed fuel."

While some of the staffers didn't want to sulk in their lost of employment until after the holidays, others were angered with Vanguarde for not informing employees about the company's dire financial stability. "It's sad, because never again will all those talented people be in the same office building," said one staffer.

"Magazine publishing is a tough and complex business, especially in this economic climate," says Yanick Rice Lamb, former editor of Heart & Soul magazine, who now teaches newspaper journalism, magazine publishing and new media at Howard University. "In addition to solid editorial, a strong audience, proper positioning and solid advertising, it requires the right mix of management, marketing and money -- patient money and lots of it. Magazines can take years to break even and turn a profit. I'd love to see the day when a greater number of black magazines survive long enough to reach this point, with all the necessary ingredients and resources."

And that's the real deal, folks. The working life of a music journalist/editor is not a glamorous one. For me, being a writer and editor in this unstable feld is about the love of writing and penning stories about our vibrate music culture, which never ceases to amaze me. Telling stories about artists who produce great art (or questionable art), keeps me afloat in these treacherous waters of the publishing business.

While the aforementioned African-American magazines are lifestyle publications, publishers at music magazines are also cutting staff and budgets, as well, because advertising sales and revenues in recent months continue to fall dramatically. So laid off music writers have an onerous decision to make: continue to find work in the music industry where record labels are being gobbled up into one big corporate machine or choose a career in a new industry.

I wear this "music journalist" title like a badge of honor, and I don't take working in this game for granted. I feel lucky to be writing music stories -- full-time in my current gig -- because it's tough for writers to stay gainfully employed for long periods of time. I'm not bling-blinging like P. Diddy; I'm not hanging out at the parties with the rappers (as some would believe); or making a six-figure salary writing about the going-ons in the pop and rap music industry. Nope, I'm struggling and striving just like you. I'm not better than you because I'm in this position to inform you about your favorite artists. Yeah, it's true that I'm involved in the music business but I'm in the lower echelon of the music-industry food chain. I'm the rat looking for the cheese, sort of speak.

There's a big consensus -- among my journalism peers, at least -- that music writers should get paid as much if not more as public relations people, ad executives and A&R big willies. Now with the ending of Vanguarde's urban publications, there are only a few outlets for African-American writers to inform people about our vibrant urban culture. I believe that a journalist is a treasured commodity. Who else is going to tell stories of OUR American lives?

However, it's jungle out there and it makes me wonder, why I am not going under. There have been times where I felt like ending my journalism career and take a job at the post office.

Why I haven't called it quits, yet?

Maybe because of my passion to write about the black experience -- in particular, my experience as an African-American journalist reporting on urban and hip-hop culture.

I send my prayers and best wishes to those journalists/editors out there who have lost their positions at Vanguarde. But please remember that as journalists, you haven't lost your voice. Please continue to write and create. Our black artistry is so important right now. Your words and visions are desperately needed.


Sources :: Black America Today, New York Daily News, Richard Prince's Journal-isms and Negrophile -- the best blog/website for news and worldwide viewpoints from (and to) the African-American community.