Robservations: Did Ebony skip town without paying writers?


Robservations on the media beat:

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

Ebony magazine has moved its editorial operations to Los Angeles, but it’s left some very unhappy writers back in Chicago. The African-American lifestyle monthly is under fire in published reports and on social media for not paying freelancers for their work, some of it dating back years. With as many as 30 contributors believed to be waiting for payment, many have taken to invoking the hashtag “#EbonyOwes” on Twitter. In response, Ebony has blocked some of them from its account. Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, a former senior editor, said she was never paid for her June cover story on Chance the Rapper, and Ebony still owes her “more than half” for her work as managing editor on the previous issue. Tiffany Walden, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE, has not been paid for her work on two earlier issues, according to Gibbs. Michael Gibson, chairman of Ebony Media, did not respond to a request for comment. Last month he told the Chicago Tribune the magazine was “100 percent committed to getting those people paid.” Gibson’s CVG Group acquired Ebony in 2016 from Chicago-based Johnson Publishing.

National Radio Hall of Fame

Monday marks the opening of public voting for the National Radio Hall of Fame. For two weeks participants can text their votes in two categories — “Music Format On-Air Personality” (Bobby Bones, Sean “Hollywood” Hamilton, Guy Phillips, and Ryan Seacrest) and “Spoken Word On-Air Personality” (Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic, Bill Handel, Joe Madison and “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!”). Winners in all other categories are chosen by a panel of industry professionals. That includes the “Longstanding Local/Regional” category, for which Chicagoan John Records Landecker is a nominee. Winners will be announced June 26 and inducted November 2. For more on the public voting process see

Goli Sheikholeslami

WBEZ FM 91.5 plans to add a dozen reporters, editors, producers and hosts to its news staff of by the end of this year, according to Goli Sheikholeslami, president and CEO of Chicago Public Media. In an appearance before the City Club of Chicago last week, Sheikholeslami said she aims to increase newsroom staff from 56 to 68 by December and to 90 by 2020. Pointing to the planned merger of Chicago newspaper ownership and the sale of Tribune Media to Sinclair Broadcasting, she said in remarks quoted by Crain’s Chicago Business: “All of this equates to the kind of media consolidation that fosters an environment of partisan bias, and certainly an undeniable increased need for a fair, truly independent voice to deliver the facts, and that is where we come in.”

Kathryn Thomas

It’s over and out for Kathryn Thomas after more than two years as chief sales executive at Window to the World Communications, parent company of public television WTTW-Channel 11 and classical WFMT FM 98.7. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed Thomas’s departure Tuesday as senior vice president of sales and national sponsorships but declined further comment. Thomas began her career at WTTW following her graduation from Indiana University, and returned in January 2015 after 10 years in sales at A+E Networks and Lifetime Television. No word on a replacement.

Dometi Pongo

Dometi Pongo has resigned as morning news anchor at WVON AM 1690, the Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk station. Pongo’s departure after four years follows the hiring of Maze Jackson as morning host succeeding Matt McGill. Until a permanent replacement is named, Annette Flournoy will fill in as news anchor on Jackson’s show. “It was just time,” Pongo said of his decision to step down. “Just needed to take advantage of some different opportunities — from my podcast to some media consulting projects — that I just didn’t have the bandwidth to take on before.” He’ll continue as weekend news anchor at Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN AM 720.


There’s more news coming to 87.7 Me-TV FM, the Weigel Broadcasting soft rock/oldies station at WRME LP 87.7. Starting Monday, WGN will provide afternoon news updates at 4:20, 4:50, 5:20 and 5:50 p.m., anchored by Judy Pielach, Kim Gordon and Rob Martier. Since last fall WGN has been supplying morning news updates on Me-TV FM, as part of a promotional partnership. “WGN’s programming is complementary to our music format, and the credibility of WGN’s news and information makes this a win-win for both stations and our compatible audiences,” said Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting.

Kathy Griffin

Comedian Kathy Griffin’s firing this week from CNN as New Year’s Eve co-host was another reminder of what happens when media personalities go too far in social media commentary on President Donald Trump. Griffin, who’s a native of west suburban Oak Park and graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, was widely criticized for posting a photo of her holding a prop resembling Trump’s severed head. She deleted the image and apologized. Last February Mark Giangreco, longtime sports anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, was suspended for two weeks without pay for a tweet in which he called Trump a “cartoon lunatic” and referred to Trump voters as “simpletons.” Giangreco later returned without comment from him or ABC 7.