NORFOLK, VA — The CEO of EBONY and Jet Magazine Michele Ghee graced the campus of Norfolk State University (NSU) during MCJR Week.
As CEO of the two publications, she catered to the media age by creating digital covers, launched EBONY Studios to increase Black storytelling and worked to revive Jet Magazine, the historic news magazine that was founded by John H. Johnson.
Ghee spoke with the mass communications and journalism (MCJR) students at the MCJR Awards Luncheon as the appointed keynote speaker. She discussed what she calls “The Six I’s,” which consist of introspective, informed, improve, innovate, invest and impact.
Ghee expressed how she uses these I’s in her life to become the successful person she is today and highly advocated that students use them as well.
The Spartan Echo received the opportunity to interview Michele Ghee, prior to the event, and received a more in-depth understanding of who she is.
SP: You have been CEO of Ebony and Jet for over a year now, how has your experience been thus far?
MG: Well, first of all, it has been amazing because anybody being able to touch this iconic brand and help it revive itself is just a blessing from God. But, it has also been tough to change it from people viewing it as a publication you can hold in your hand, to a digital space for the whole world to enjoy. It is a business that we are working on every day. It isn’t an easy business but it is a rewarding one. So, we are in these streets fighting every day to make sure this brand has another opportunity to touch many lives as it did back in 1945.
SP: It is crucial to mention that you are much more than a CEO, you’re a mom and you’re an author. So, let’s talk about your first book, how did this influence your other books? What was it like becoming an author?
MG: Yes I am a CEO, yes I’m a mother, I’m a friend, I’m a ride or die, and I have authored books. I needed to have an extension of myself so that I could be seen. Oftentimes Black women walk the hallways of corporate America and we are not seen. We are not seen for our contribution, not seen for our creativity, andwe are not seen for our leadership.
When I authored a book, I was more than just that, so I really couldn’t be denied. Then I wrote a second and third because you have to have a footprint outside of what people have given you.
So, I took something for myself and then I could talk about it for myself, then I could elevate on my own. If we want to get what we are supposed to have in a time where our communities are still marginalized, we have to do something else and this was my version of that. It looked like I wanted to publish a book but I really wanted to publish my voice, I wanted to be seen and that was my way of doing that.
SP: During your career, you have implemented diversity and inclusion tactics at different media companies in addition to multicultural business practices, it is extremely impressive to learn that you built CNN Advantage. Can you discuss more about that?
MG: I was told no, no, no. I was like, “Okay, you’re saying no, but there is money here.” So, I would tell any young person that if you want to bring an idea, show them how they are going to make money because they don’t care about anything else. So I realized that CNN had this amazing footprint of conversations that were built up, but no one was monetizing them.
So I thought that if I could get that content and bring it to the advertisers, I could also create a revenue stream, but I fought for that but people said “no, no no” until I finally got a “yes.”
We did something great and generated millions of dollars. We did something great because I found the money to go behind it and often times that is the easiest way to get what you want, to show a company how something could make money is good for the community.
SP: Graduating from college at 31 years old, you have certainly made it known it is never too late to get an education and chase your dreams. Many students, young and old, often feel stuck and have trouble starting or finishing school. What specifically gave you this push to keep going and what advice would you give to students who are stuck?
MG: I would say the first thing is you have to get an education because it is the first breeding process. It is the currency still today, 20 years from now maybe it won’t matter because you’ll have a social media footprint, you can prove your work through your footprint.
The world is linking ties through this digitized world. But still today, I am talking to candidates that have shown me they are committed to something and that commitment is that they have finished four years. I don’t ask what school they went to or what their GPA is, I just want to know that they have finished. So, you have to finish something to prove to the world you are committed to something.
The second thing is life gets in the way. Just as valuable to me is someone who finished school later because now they have work experience and have experienced the world. So, they are coming prepared to take on the task. It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey or if things happen, you can always go back and get your education or degree to show the world you have the ability to accomplish a task.
SP: What advice would you give to the future CEOs, not a lot of Black women can brag about being the CEO of two major magazines. What advice would you give to Black girls and Black women aspiring to be a CEO?
MG: I would say a couple of things, one, you don’t have to wait for corporate America to give it to you, you can be the CEO of your own company. I would say that it is really important for you to understand that it is a business of generating revenue and you have to firmly understand financial models, you have to understand what is going on in the marketplace and competitive sets.
You have to understand that you need different people in order to make this ship rise, you can’t do it by yourself. I would say there are a lot of things, but most importantly you have to know yourself. You have to understand who you are, your capabilities, and have a lot of self-awareness so that you can build things around you to make yourself successful.
We go into things that we think are the best, the baddest, and the coldest but really that’s not true. We also have to look at ourselves and our shortcomings so we have to fill those gaps to make sure we have an entire whole entity that we are bringing into the marketplace.