N’DIGO At 30: On TV, Online, And Podcast

N’DIGO celebrated 30 years last month. That’s quite a milestone…for any endeavor.

We started as a monthly newspaper in December 1989, with the late “Little Warrior” Rev. Willie Barrow as our first cover story.

Then we took the right business steps and grew into a weekly dynamo, covering Chicago, the African-American community, and providing information of interest to Black folks everywhere. We were rich in authenticity and we talked about the elephant in the room, racism.

We developed a fine team of writers, graphic designers, and photographers that were creative and dynamic each in their own right. We profiled personalities on our cover with a rich style that included portrait-like photography and sterling feature writing.

We wrote about what many talked about, but few dared to put into words for public consumption. I developed a Vernon Jarrett/Mike Royko-type column with my “Publisher’s Page” that became quite popular.

We gave voice to and about our community like others had not. The mainstream papers had a big job in covering the larger Chicago (read, “white”) community, and some times, most times, were absent or asleep on the events and activities occurring on the South and West sides of the city.

That became our niche. We found a need and filled it, which many say is a primary key to success.

A New Era Dawns
But time marches on. The dawn of the digital technology age from about 15 years ago changed the newspaper and magazine publishing business drastically.

Now, print publications across the city and nation, across the globe, have died in droves; some of them had been around for a century or longer. The pages of the remaining publications still trying to grind it out have become thinner and thinner as advertisers use new platforms – mostly digital – to sell their goods and services.


Indeed, a new day is here and more print publications will fold as the cost of printing and physical circulation – trucks, drivers and the like – will only increase as advertising dollars and circulation revenue will only continue to shrink.

Add to that the facts that the news cycle is now 24/7 – so the daily printed newspaper truly becomes yesterday’s news and weeklies become prehistoric – and that younger people live on digital information and rarely peruse print material, and you’re faced with a traditional news business model that no longer works.

Don’t be surprised to see Chicago have only one daily newspaper very soon. At its circulation height, Chicago had 11 daily newspapers and 22 weeklies – in 1860! That was 160 years ago, and while the traditional news business has mostly been robust since then, things change.

N’DIGO’s Evolution
N’DIGO, the publication, reckoned with those changes last year when we stopped printing the paper. We are in the final stage of putting N’DIGO, the paper as we have known it, to bed.

More than three-quarters of our printed editions through 30 years that we saved in our archives have been donated to the Carter Woodson Library and the Chicago Historical Society.

Hermene Hartman cleaning out and donating the N’DIGO archives.

We have also digitized the papers through News Corps, who will make those digitized versions available to major universities, libraries, scholars and the like for historical and research purposes for years to come. The NDIGO COLLECTION will be available online in the first quarter of this new year.

But at 30 years of age, N’DIGO happily lives on. Though no longer in print, we have gone with the digital flow and now publish N’DIGO content online through our timely three-days-a-week eblasts, through our website N’DIGO Online, and over the airwaves with our new TV show, N’DIGO STUDIO.

The eblasts are a proactive outreach to our voluminous subscribers list, giving them the most timely news and information three times a week (and more for special occasions). On Mondays, it’s the “Q&A” interview with contemporary personalities. Wednesdays are for “Hot Copy”, which explores the hottest news issues of the day. Fridays are reserved for “Ziggy”, which delivers the most outrageous gossip and chit-chat to keep you N’The Know.

These weekly eblasts are handled by N’DIGO Digital Editor Sylvester Cosby. To be added to our subscribers list, please send your email address here to Sylvester Cosby.

Sylvester Cosby

David Smallwood, a founding member of N’DIGO and longtime editor of the print publication, is in charge of the website N’DIGO Online, which you can visit any time at ndigo.com.

The site operates on a 24/7 news cycle to keep you up with current events in news, entertainment, health, business, and the whole menu of things we covered in the print publication. The N’DIGO that you’re familiar with has truly been recalibrated as N’DIGO Online.

N’DIGO, The Book

The N’DIGO that you’re familiar with is also available as a nearly 500-page, full-color coffee table book called N’DIGO Legacy: Black Luxe – 110 African- American Icons of Contemporary History, which I co-authored with David Smallwood.

Hermene and David Smallwood

N’DIGO Legacy features the best of the cover stories that N’DIGO has produced in its 30-year history. It is a must-have, must-read for everyone who cherishes the magnificent heritage within the African-American community as seen through these updated profiles of iconic Black Chicagoans.

More such books are on the horizon. For more information and to order N’DIGO Legacy, click here!.

Introducing N’DIGO STUDIO
Last October, after two years of studying, preparation and hard work, we began broadcasting N’DIGO STUDIO, a TV talk show thats airs on NBC5 at 1 a.m. on Saturday nights, WCIU on Sunday mornings at 6 a.m., on Channel 5 Mondays at 8 p.m., and on Channel 25.

As on all N’DIGO platforms, we still tell stories that might go untold, mistold, or need to be retold. TV is great platform for us to provide in-depth stories on subjects that are very much talked about, but not with a deep dive. I host the show, which is done in a conversational, moreso than interview, format.

We have, so far, successfully completed our first season of 12 shows, which ran from October through December, and are now working on the new season. The first season included two programs centering on the death of Laquan McDonald featuring his great uncle, Pastor Marvin Hunter, and the Rev. Gregory Livingston as panelists.

These episodes discussed the circumstances around the horrific police killing of Laquan, the subsequent conviction of police officer Jason Van Dyke, and the antiquated Jim Crow laws that continue to protect rogue police officers. View the N’DIGO Studio Laquan sizzler here.

On N’DIGO STUDIO, we talk to authors who have books not necessarily reviewed in the papers, but are major writings important to our audience. One such episode was a discussion with Black women who cut their teeth in politics and went on to the top levels of the Democratic Party and the White House.

The book was For Girls Who Have Considered Politics, by Donna Brazile, Minyon Moore, Yolanda Caraway, and Leah Daughtry, a group that has been involved in national politics for more than 30 years.

In another episode, we discussed the trend of Black women marrying white men, with Northwestern sociologist professor Dr. Cheryl Judice. Her new book, Interracial Relationships Between Black Women and White Men, is telling and actually more about economics and education than race.

We chatted with author Jim DeRogatis (Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly) on the sex crimes of R. Kelly. Jim has covered Kelly for decades in his role as a music critic and is perhaps the most knowledgeable journalist on the topic as he has specifically written about the accusations against Kelly for the past 20 years.

On the show, he talked about how the story did not surface for a long time because the voices of young Black women were ignored; it was racial. Jim believes that Kelly will never breathe free air again.

In other episodes of N’DIGO STUDIO in the first season, we explored the problem some Black women are creating for themselves by wearing wigs, weaves and extensions. We talked to top hair stylists Leigh Jones, Dr. LaQue Shon Harris and Angela Maldonado and showed how women are balding from a lack of good hair hygiene.

And we had a dynamic discussion with Aaron Cohen and Terisa Griffin on Chicago soul music, as pioneered by Cutis Mayfield and Jerry Butler. We change the set of the show from, say, an art gallery to a living room to a formal studio. We want to show and share Chicago with its many places, spaces, and views.

N’DIGO Studio host Hermene Hartman with guests Aaron Cohen and Terisa Griffin.

The Synergy Of Terrance
In future shows, you will watch a political roundtable with former Chicago top cop Garry McCarthy, WIND talk show host Republican Stephanie Trussell, and Eric Johnson from the Chicago Crusader. It’s a different kind of political discussion with their viewpoints and insights. Real talk. View the N’DIGO Studio political roundtable sizzler here.

There is more to come on Black women entrepreneurs and also a one-on-one with a newcomer at City Hall.

N’DIGO STUDIO has grown with thousands of new viewers tuning in each week as we preview upcoming shows on Facebook. And we are working on securing better time slots.

Until then, we will continue to bring you interesting topics that may not surface elsewhere with our spin and to introduce you to people that you might not meet otherwise.

For instance, we profiled a wonderful and most interesting young man named Terrance Wallace. He is a social engineer from the West Side of Chicago who just up and moved to New Zealand, where he launched The InZone Project, a successful and innovative education initiative for minority youth over there.

Terrance Wallace and his InZone Project

After eight years, he has returned home to test his educational theory with kids here. Terrance is amazing and his story has been turned into a documentary that has won acclaim and awards in New Zealand, but has yet to be shown in the States.

The significant part of this is that while Terrance’s segment will air on our N’DIGO STUDIO TV show, his story has been eblasted to our email subscribers list already, and is permanently accessible right now on the N’DIGO Online website. Check out Terrance’s story here.

In addition, just now, at the very beginning of this new year of 2020, we have launched an ongoing podcast of N’DIGO Studio, which you can find right here on Spotify or here if you can’t access Spotify. That’s the synergy of all our efforts and our platforms right now.

So N’DIGO grows and keeps up with the digital space as changes come. We move forward and continue story telling, as we see it,  perhaps even in live forums very soon. Please tune in to all our platforms, enjoy, and let us know what you think.

Thank you for three decades, Chicago. We have enlightened along the way and learned so much from the city we love as we have experienced the changing of the guard and embraced the new technology in telling stories.

Here we are at 30 years and counting: Same N’DIGO stories; new N’DIGO platforms.

And still we rise!

Hermene Hartman

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