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The Rise and Fall of Soul Newspaper
By Kimberlee Buck, Contributing Writer
Published July 27, 2016
Pictures of past Soul magazine covers from left-to-right: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Richard Pryor, and Diana Ross (courtesy of Soul Newspaper)

Pictures of past Soul magazine covers from left-to-right: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Richard Pryor, and Diana Ross (courtesy of Soul Newspaper)

For 13 years Diana Ross, The Jackson Five, James Brown, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin and other Black musicians, artists, writers, politicians, actors, comedians and entertainers graced the covered of a publication that would lay down the groundwork for other newspapers to follow.

Soul news magazine brought their readers in depth feature articles written about Black entertainers, during a time when hardly any other publication covered the contributions Black artist made to the industry.

The Los Angeles based newspaper was born out of the Watts Riots. In 1966, married couple and LA natives Ken and Regina Jones launched the newspaper.

The purpose of the newspaper, was to provide both the good and the bad of Black entertainers to fans.

Prior to opening the newspaper, Ken was LA’s first Black anchorman and Regina was a radio operator for LAPD. Once the paper opened, Regina was responsible for the advertising, sales and distribution deadlines for the newspaper, while Ken was the creative mastermind.

In an interview with The Neighborhood News (TNN) Regina had this to say about her role in the news magazine:

“I was really all about the nuts and the bolts. My motive was never “Go have fun.” It was a business. I was never a fan of an artist.”

In less than a year, the newspaper spread like wildfire across 30 different cities in the country. In a week, Soul sold 10,000 copies of its first issue. The paper expanded from eight to 16 pages and went from being printed one a week to twice a month.

Its readership continued to increase due the newspapers relationship with R&B radio stations. Radio stations gave Soul free advertising on air, in exchange for the newspaper using a stations name on the cover of its’ magazine.

Soul was particularly associated with local radio station, KGFI.

Managers of artist began including the magazine that featured their artist inside the artist’s portfolio. Other news outlets began using Soul as a primary news source.

Regina’s biggest accomplishment while working at Soul was capturing Black America’s entertainment during the 60’s and 70’s and covering political issues.

“By documenting the history of black entertainment just before it crossed over into white mainstream we recognized and covered important artists early in their careers like Melvin Van Peebles, Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, Cicely Tyson and Artist Lane whose bronze sculptor of Sojourner Truth was placed in the Capital Building in Washington DC,” said Regina Jones in an interview with TNN.

Here is a list of the former contributing writers for the Soul:

  • Pulitzer Prize recipient Leonard Pitts, Jr., writer editor Steven Ivory
  • Los Angeles Times writers Mike Terry
  • Connie Johnson
  • Rochelle Smith
  • J. Randy Taraborrelli
  • Photographers Bruce Talamon, Bobby Holland, Erik Whitaker, and Howard Bingham

The rise of the publication soon to a dramatic hit. With Regina’s mother being sick and the couple’s marriage falling apart, Soul newspaper was crumbling. Communities were facing economic challenges and so was the newspaper. The business was struggling to pay their workers and the printer.

According to a TNN, Regina had this to say:

“But it did feel like pulling the plug on one of my own children when we printed that last issue. I had emotionally reached a point where I didn’t care or know what others thought. I know many were disappointed.”

After SOUL published its’ last issue, publisher Regina Jones donated complete sets to University of California Los Angeles and Indiana University.

 

Chelsee Lowe from the Neighborhood News Online contributed to this article.

Categories: Entertainment | History
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