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Workplace Revenge: A Worker Bee Strikes Back (at Ebony Magazine) (679 hits)

People get canned everyday; it's a fact of life.
But it's how you get canned that can really make things messy.

As you read this, there is a growing scandal in the world of Black media involving Johnson Publishing Company the parent company of Ebony/Jet magazines, and the most prestigious black-owned publishing company in the world, and its fired director of online development, Will LeVeist, wrote a scathing tell-all about his short time at the company.

The Players

Johnson Publishing Company's mission statement reads that it:
"has always aimed at increasing African-Americans' pride in themselves by presenting their past and present achievements to America and to the world. ... Through the years the company has also labored to provide irrefutable proof to millions of Black Americans, young and old, that their dreams can and do come true."

Wil LeVeist, 43, as described by Richard Prince's Journalisms,, is "a graduate of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education who had moved his family of five from Newport News, Va., to Chicago to work for Johnson Publishing Co."

It should be noted that LeVeist is a founder of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists. His immediate boss at the time was Editorial Director Bryan Monroe, then, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists. These organizations, as well as Maynard, are committed to diversifying the media landscape through the recruitment and retention of minority journalists.

Ah, a Black family man secures a dream job at a Black-owned empire that believes in promoting the Black family.

And then he was fired, twice.

LeVeist writes in his book that after being let go without warning the first time, CEO Linda Johnson Rice asked him to return--taking a pay cut of $35,000--only to fire him again a few months later.

LeVeist sets the scene for his shocking second termination:
"With diamonds glistening from her light brown earlobes," he writes, "she focused her eyes on me and said that things could've been done differently, but that her mind was made up."

LeVeist doesn't mention the company by name in his book (he really doesn't have to) and grasping for the high road, he says his motive is to empower the suddenly fired and to serve as a wake-up call for mean employers. "... An employer who is considering terminating employees will realize that he or she doesn't have to be brutal about it," he notes. "The same result can be accomplished humanely."

The back-story to this scandal is that all print media is suffering now, as advertisers re-allocate their budgets to attract as many eyeballs as possible. Thus, print, the sturdy old kid on the block, is losing accounts to the Internet, the hot new kid on the block.

Competition for ad dollars is stiff, and to put it plainly, disgruntled current and ex-employees armed with bad-mouthing blogs, explosive e-mails and pens filled with poison ink could become a pricey problem.

LeVeist's damage, if any, to the company's brand can't be assessed as of yet, and Johnson Publishing Company has yet to release a statement about his allegations.

I was interviewed and hired by John H. Johnson, (the late founder of Johnson Publishing Company) historian and Ebony Editor Emeritus Lerone Bennett Jr. and CEO Linda Johnson Rice. These three media giants treated me kindly, always, and Mr. Bennett was a mentor. I was an editor at Ebony for seven years. I made great friends and professional contacts during my tenure, but I also learned some sobering lessons about office politics and the lows that some would stoop in the pursuit of power.

I can tell you that some current and ex-employees are in shock over LeVeist's book, and I am one of them.

Others applaud him for telling his truth about working for the company.

And still others are livid, wondering if LeVeist's timing was way off.

Think about it, should LeVeist have aired dirty laundry about the oldest black magazine in existence, in front of the entire world, just weeks before this race-fueled presidential election?

Consider this: Working is a free will endeavor. The worker bee provides a service. The boss pays for that service. When either party feels that the service is no longer needed and/or mutually beneficial, the agreement is dissolved.

Base the boss/worker bee relationship on respect, and such dissolutions would be the end of the story--allowing both parties to begin their next chapter on a high note.
Posted By: zondra hughes
Wednesday, September 24th 2008 at 5:58PM
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I don't think Ebony/Jet is in any danger of backlash from readers or dissenters based on this brother's book. There is some measure of dirty laundry everywhere and we're probably the only ones paying attention to Ebony's (I haven't even kept up with the Jones' myself). External perception will depend on how dirty the laundry really is.
Wednesday, September 24th 2008 at 6:38PM
Dirty laundry will always be present in the workplace and aired when someone gets upset. I think that shows that someone was actually upset that what went on in the workplace was even brought to the public.
Wednesday, September 24th 2008 at 6:56PM
Emmanuel Brown
I agree with you, Mister Johnson.
Wednesday, September 24th 2008 at 7:17PM
Dr. S. Maxwell Hines
You are all right on point. I have never met Mr. LeVeist, and I don't know the details of his tenure, but those of us who worked for the company are in shock. We really don't know what to say...
Wednesday, September 24th 2008 at 11:56PM
zondra hughes

I too agree with MJ. This is well below anyones radar. OBTW: Is Ebony/Jet still around? They appear do a horrible job of marketing to newer generations of Black folks.
Thursday, September 25th 2008 at 9:36AM
Dr. Ahmad Glover
In Chicago, where the headquarters are is all everyone is talking about. And duly noted on your gut check about the marketing aspect! LOL1
Thursday, September 25th 2008 at 11:17AM
zondra hughes
I agree with Isaac.
Sunday, October 12th 2008 at 12:03AM
Marta Fernandez
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