"Where do facts matter? The digital paradox in magazines' fact-checking practices"
Abstract: Print magazines are unique among nonfiction media in their dedication of staff and resources to in-depth, word-by-word verification of stories. Over time, this practice has established magazines’ reputation for reliability, helped them retain loyal readers amid a glut of information sources, and protected them from litigation. But during the past decade, websites, mobile platforms, and social media have expanded the types of stories and other content that magazines provide for readers. Doing so has shortened the time between the creation and dissemination of content, challenging and in some cases squeezing out fact-checkers’ participation. This study examines the procedures applied to stories in magazines and their non-print platforms, seeking to discern what decisions were made in response to the speed of digital publication, what effects these decisions have had, what lessons have been learned and what changes have been made over time. The results suggest that fact-checking practices for print content remain solidly in place at most magazines, if executed with diminished resources; however, magazine media are also exploring new processes to ensure accuracy and protect their reputations in an accelerated media environment.
Published April 2, 2017
Accepted, not yet published
"On Johnson's Shoulders: The Lessons and Legacy of Ebony magazine."
Abstract: In the early 1940s, John H. Johnson launched a media company that essentially created a parallel media universe for Black readers. First Negro Digest and then Ebony and Jet--along with other shorter-lived publications--covered the issues that mattered to Black readers but were ignored by mainstream publications. As part of this process, Johnson convinced mainstream advertisers that Black readers were profitable consumers. But after the Civil Rights era, the ground began to shift in this parallel universe. Some Black readers found they were welcome and reflected in the pages of mainstream magazines, including new launches that were deliberately multicultural; others sought content that wasn’t a mirror image of the mainstream, but didn’t find it in Ebony or Jet. Ultimately, the atomization of both content and audience contributed to the demise of Jet and the current, precarious condition of Ebony. And yet, the legacy of John Johnson and these publications is significant for Black advertising firms, models, makeup and media as well as the success of Blacks in these fields, on corporate boards and in other positions of influence. This case study charts the arc from Johnson’t launch of his most famous magazines -- Ebony and Jet -- to their status today, connecting their trajectory to both the social and political times as well as the changes that have affected all magazines.
Co-written with Charles Whitaker. To be published in 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.