Interview: Lynn Norment

Lynn Norment is the managing editor of Ebony, the long-established title targeting blacks. She chats with PRWeek about her likes and dislikes in PR pitches and adjusting to the digital age.

Lynn Norment is the managing editor of Ebony, the long-established title targeting blacks. She chats with PRWeek about her likes and dislikes in PR pitches and adjusting to the digital age.

PRWeek: Can you tell me a bit about your role at Ebony?

Lynn Norment: I am managing editor and have responsibility for a number of columns, several writers, and everything they do, as well having to shape and secure cover subjects and doing a little bit of everything.

PRWeek: And how did you get to your current job?

Norment: I was working for a newspaper in Memphis, TN, right after college. I went from college internship to [a] job at the Commercial Appeal newspaper. I was in Chicago visiting and stopped by Ebony and met the editors and told them I would love to do some freelance work out of Memphis. Before I could hardly get back to Memphis, I had a call and an assignment and that was followed by another assignment and then by a job offer. At the time, I was not looking for a job, but I considered it a good option and decided to say ‘yes.'

PRWeek: Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist or how did you get into the field?

Norment: I did always know I wanted to be a writer. I grew up in a small town in Tennessee, outside of Memphis, and people in my hometown, they didn't even know what I meant when I said I wanted to be a journalist. ‘What? What?' They didn't even know what I was talking about until my first day on the job and I had a byline in the newspaper. And they said, ‘Oh, this is what you wanted to do.' ‘Yes!' And then they understood it. But even when I was in elementary school and high school, I always did well in English and compositions and writing. I was always writing poetry and little stories on the margin of my notebooks. So I've always been into writing. Didn't always know I wanted to be journalist, but I knew I wanted to be a writer.

PRWeek: You mentioned part of your job is working on cover subjects. What was your role with getting Michelle Obama on the cover of Ebony?

Norment: I had met Michelle Obama in her home and that was wonderful. That was before her husband was a presidential candidate. So I've known them, and we always thought she would be a great person to put on the cover. It was shot in New York, so I was not there. I did not do the interview. I have interviewed her. I did a story on Barack and Michelle back in January of 2007, right before he announced. Our Michelle Obama cover has been a big hit.

PRWeek: Can you tell me a little bit about how Ebony has embraced new media and online initiatives?

Norment: We're thinking in a much more open-minded manner. We had a lot of new people on staff. We have EbonyJet.com now and we, through a lot of our interviews, we put things on the web as well. We think of ourselves as multi-platform. There is Ebony. There is Jet magazine. And then there is EbonyJet.com. So we are doing a lot of things with new media. We are embracing it warmly.

PRWeek: What is your relationship like with Jet?

Norment: We're sister publications; we aren't competitors. We work together. Every now and then some of the writers here will be doing a story and we'll also write a story for Jet for a different angle. And sometimes we'll have writers from Jet do some things for us. We had a Jet writer do a big cover story on Tyler Perry for us. We have a very warm working relationship. No rivalry here. We're all one big happy family.

PRWeek: What is your relationship like with PR professionals?

Norment: For the most part, it's very good. In fact, just before I spoke with you, I was on the phone with three PR people in succession. My relationships are good. We have to have good, frank talks. I get along best with those who are honest and open, and I try to be honest and open. Between journalists and PR people, we have to work together, so we should get along and understand. And there are some PR people that, over the years, I can now say that they are my friends. But, you know, we can help each other, but we have to be open and honest and upfront. And I've had several conversations like that today. And so I'm constantly on the phone with PR people. They can be some good people.

PRWeek: If a PR professional is looking to reach out to a reporter or editor at Ebony, what is the best way to do so?

Norment: By e-mail. I'm constantly checking my e-mails. Right now I'm caught up with everything, but e-mail is almost like real time and often times PR people are like, ‘Thank you for getting right back to me!' It's like they didn't expect such a speedy response. The best way is by e-mail.

PRWeek: Do you have an example of a great pitch you received recently?

Norment: I have received so many. I don't know where to begin. Right now, we're getting a lot of good pitches for the holiday gift guide, and I must say I've gone through at least ten today. We're telling people we want gifts to be affordable, considering what the economy is like now. So people are making very good pitches and coming up with very good items. I get a lot of crazy pitches, from people in prison, who are in trouble and want us to do a story on them to get them out. We refer them to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. They don't understand why we can't just do a story that would help them quite a bit. I often get pitches from people who want us to help them launch their business or their careers. They don't quite understand that you go ahead and do what you have to do to be successful and then come back. They say well they can't be successful if we don't help them. That's just not how it works. So I get some good pitches, some great pitches, and I kind of get some crazy pitches. And from people sometimes who don't really know how to pitch — not everybody does. And then I get pitches from PR people who make demands and they don't think to understand. We have to work together. So you make the pitch and then we can talk honestly about it, but you can't just demand. I also hear well, ‘I don't understand why Ebony won't put them on the cover!' Well, we only have 12 covers and, of course, their client is top priority to them but it's not necessarily in the best interest of our readers and for us to sell the magazine. I deal with pitches all day.

PRWeek: What are some things that are of interest to Ebony readers? What are some topics that you cover a lot?

Norment: What I tell people we really need is something very specific that hasn't been overly done. We're looking for a new angle, a new focus, that will be of interest to our readers in particular. We're always looking for great homes – [that's] one thing I'm always looking for. People who are beyond to excel in whatever their area of expertise may be. And we're always looking for things about people who are giving back to the community. We do a feature every year on young leaders who are doing great things, but also giving back to the community. We're always interested in people like that. There are so many different things and the best way for people to understand who we are as a publication and who the people are who read us, who buy us, is to look at the magazine. It's so clear sometimes that people are pitching us things and they really don't understand who we are as a magazine. That is the best way. Become familiar with us and them you can pitch better to us.

PRWeek: What else should PRWeek readers know about Ebony?

Norment: We have been around for more than 60 years, but we're still fresh and new and have a lot to offer for everybody. People should understand that we're not down and out, we're not retired. We're not even senior citizens. We're still young and vibrant and at the forefront of what we do.

Name: Lynn Norment

Title: Managing editor

Outlet: Ebony

Preferred method of contact: LNorment@ebony.com

Web site: EbonyJet.com

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