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Under the Radar

The media-shy Yusef Jackson, third son of the famous reverend, takes a curious venture into publishing by pumping money into Radar, the on-again, off-again celebrity-driven magazine

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“Radar is a work in progress,” says Yusef Jackson. “I think we’re still finding our editorial voice.”

Radar magazine’s June/July cover features a sexy, pistol-packing Lindsay Lohan linked to a story about the increasingly violent skirmishes between celebrities and paparazzi. A photo sidebar showcases 15 famous people flipping the bird for the cameras. That’s typical for the flashy and irreverent magazine, which routinely chronicles the missteps of stars, politicians, and the rich and powerful. The editor and founder, Maer Roshan, arrives via New York magazine and Tina Brown’s late Talk, and of course Radar resides in the publishing epicenter, New York City.

In short, despite a rather rocky launch-or, rather, several rocky launches-Radar has the DNA and mission to feed off today’s overheated, buzz-fueled, New York/Washington/Hollywood celebrity culture. With one anomaly: the magazine’s chief named backer is a media-shy Chicago businessman from a famous Chicago family-Yusef Jackson, the third son of the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson.

Why? ”Radar was a great media property for the money,” Yusef Jackson says. “We were able to buy the assets at a good price, and I thought the previous owners pulled the plug too early. An independent product like Radar needs the time to prove itself-or not.”

The magazine had started up for two issues in 2003, stopped, rebounded for three issues in 2005, and folded. Last year, Jackson formed Integrity Multimedia Company, and the dormant Radar became the company’s first acquisition. Radar’s new Web site débuted last September, and the first issue of the Jackson era came out in March.

Since Jackson stepped in, Radar’s revival has generated the kind of gossip and conjecture that would make the pages of, well, Radar. Media reporters and pop culture columnists have speculated about the unseen hand of Ronald Burkle, the Los Angeles billionaire who made his money in grocery stores and private equity and who counts the Jacksons and Bill and Hillary Clinton among his good friends. Gawker, a New York–based media-and-celebrity blog that seems more than a little obsessed with Radar, claimed through an unnamed source that Burkle had put up about $8 million of Jackson’s initial $10-million investment.

Jackson, who is 36, won’t comment. “You’ll never hear from me what I’m investing,” he says, “and I never, ever, talk about my investors.” He adds with a laugh, “That’s what keeps my investors happy.”

Burkle, 54, did not respond to requests for an interview, but he has been both friend and financier to the youngest Jackson since the late 1990s. Jackson calls Burkle a mentor, a father figure, an adviser, and a friend. “I talk with him about my business life, my personal life, and I love to spend time with him,” Jackson says. “He’s as good a friend as I could ever have. He has given me the best advice in the world. He knows about my investment in Radar, and I talk with him about Radar sometimes.”

Jackson says that Radar attracted him because it offers a multimedia, multiplatform approach to publishing-a model in which a magazine is more than words and advertisements printed on shiny paper. In print, the magazine features long-form journalism in a distinctive voice; on the Internet, Radar’s aggressive Web site breaks news and connects with viewers through videos and blogs; in the future, the magazine hopes to deliver content on cell phones and other devices.

Radar is a work in progress,” Jackson says. “We’ve just published our second issue, and I think we’re still finding our editorial voice. It takes a little time.”

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