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Changing the face of the magazine industry.

Were it not for black publishers, African Americans would be almost nonexistent in the magazine business. Here's the ugly reality behind the glossy cover.

If you had relied on the white press of that day, you would have assumed that blacks were not horn, because the white press didn't deal with our births.

You would have assumed that we didn't finish school, because the white press didn't deal with our educational achievements.

You would have assumed that we didn't get married, because the white press didn't print our wedding announcements or pictures of black brides and grooms cutting cakes.

You would have assumed that we didn't die, because it didn't deal with our funerals.... so says John H. Johnson, publisher of Ebony magazine, describing the year 1945 in his national bestseller, Succeeding Against The Odds.

Fast-forward to 1995. African Americans, along with Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, are still essentially an "invisible people" when it comes to editorial coverage and advertisements. You can also assume that they don't read, write or edit because the white press doesn't hire them.

It was in the same spirit in which Ebony was created 50 years ago that two New York-based magazines were born in 1970: Essence, geared toward black women, and BLACK ENTERPRISE, targeted to black enterpreneurs and professionals. Like Ebony, they provided an opportunity for ambitious black magazine writers and editors to develop and hone their craft and careers.

As Ebony celebrates its golden anniversary, and both Essence and BLACK ENTERPRISE pay homage to their silver years, black publishers are still the employers in town who hire most black journalists. Flip through the pages of the nation's leading mainstream magazine, and you'll see some people of color. But stroll through their offices, and you might as well be walking through a winter wonderland--it's snow white and cold.

Yes, a few mainstream magazines, such as Money and Glamour, are actively seeking black reporters. And they are starting to hire black editors (although some raid black magazines to do so). But African Americans still make up less than 1% of the editorial pool at some 7,000 national magazine. And where they do exist, they are often alone.

Just look at the mastheads of the nation's leading publications. There is no single African American publisher at a large consumer magazine. And, you can count on one finger the number of black editors-in-chief who head a majority-market consumer publication: Marcia Ann Gillespie, editor-in-chief, Ms.

Among trade magazines, there are only two: Monique Greenwood, editor-in-chief and associate publisher, Children's Business, and Joel Dreyfuss, editor-in-chief, Information Week. Two of these three were formerly top editors at BLACK ENTERPRISE or Essence.

Black publications like BLACK ENTERPRISE have contributed to the legacy of journalistic excellence, says BE publisher and founder Earl G. Graves Sr. "There are many people who have had the opportunity to work with us and have gone on to other opportunities," he explains, "because we gave them a stage to perform on. And others saw them and made an offer." Graves adds that he hopes down the road, that these journalistic stars will remember that it wasn't just their talent that got them where they are but black publishers who believed in them.

Over the last 25 years, the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) and Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) have called on their members to identify and hire people of color in all departments, including editorial. Yet, magazine heads have done little to recruit, retain and promote minorities.

ASME has a diversity committee, made up of industry editors and publishers, and a mandate. "We have disseminated information and tried to increase awareness," says Marlene Kahan, executive director of ASME, "but obviously we can't enforce minority hiring."

What's even more obvious: The magazine industry is all talk and no action. If minority journalists are to rise above entry-level tokenism, decision-makers must let their managers know that they will be judged not only on how many awards they will or how many ads they sell, but also on how well their staffs reflect all of America. Whether minority employment is encouraged through internships, financial incentives or mentoring programs, everyone in the company, from the top down, must view it as good for business, not just as good for the soul.

"More the reason it's important for black editors, [whether they work at black or general-interest publications] to serve on the boards of industry trade associations," says Essence Publisher and CEO Edward T. Lewis, who sits on MPA's board. "We must lobby publishers who represent single and multiple titles for more inclusion of blacks into the editorial process."

More importantly, black journalists and readers of magazines need to apply pressure. Says Essence Communications President Clarence Smith: "People who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo will never do anything unless they feel some sting that disturbs them out of their complacency. We must use our power [economic and vocal] to let the larger community know that inequities continue, and to take action to correct the condition. Change will come only through agitation and activism."


One way to effect change is to hold magazines accountable. This includes keeping a record of the numbers and status of people of color on their staffs, suggests Charles F. Whitaker, assistant professor of the Medill School of journalism at Northwestern Universiry. Whitaker has just completed the first statistical study of the industry. "From what we have been able to glean, there are pockets of black editors--one or two people--at several of the major magazines, but they tend to be on the assistant and associate editor levels [entry-level positions]," he says.

Initially, the MPA was to assist Whitaker in collecting data for the survey, but later backed out. MPA President and CEO Don Kummerfeld's reasoning was that a survey wasn't needed to know that the numbers weren't there. "What's the difference between 1% and 5%?" says Kummerfeld. But Whitaker counters that "white magazine editors continue to say that they want to do better, which is fine, but the question is, better than what?"

Whitaker surveyed minority employment in the editorial departments at 225 national consumer magazines. The result: Of 1,172 employees surveyed, 10 were Native American, 38 Latino, 43 Asian and 56 African American. The survey's complete findings will be published this October in Folio: magazine, the industry trade bible.

Ironically, two years ago, Folio: published the controversial expose: "Q: What are lily-white and read all over? A: Mainstream American Magazines, which examined the dearth of minority journalists in the industry. While the title alone was shocking, reader letters from white editors, published two issues later, were even more provocative, exposing many unspoken truths about the magazine industry.

"The business is not that receptive, despite what people would say otherwise. There is very genteel racism. Not overt racism, but there is some sort of subtle discrimination that goes on," says Folio: Editor-in-Chief Anne M. Russell.

Subtle or not, says Ms. Editor-in-Chief Marcia Ann Gillespie, the time has come for black journalists to band together, tell their stories and exert some real pressure. "We need to raise hell. It can't happen on an individual level. I can influence one editor, or refer candidates to other magazines," says Gillespie, who was once editor-in-chief of Essence. "But what we really need in this business is an advocacy group."

Indeed. As a result of the Folio: article, a group of minority magazine professionals in New York have formed 4/Color, a pan-ethnic trade association. Its aim: To increase the number of minorities in magazines through career development, networking, outreach and advocacy. Its goals are admirable, but real action has been slow.

Unlike African American newspaper journalists, who have successfully pressed for increased minority hiring since the 60s, those who work at magazines are more isolated, explains Yanick Rice Lamb, former president of the New York Association of Black Journalists. Lamb is also a former senior editor at Child magazine, now owned by Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing Inc.

According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, minorities at the nation's dailies represent almost 11% of the total newsroom workforce. While to figure is far from the goal set by the group in 1978--to have newsroom staffs comparable to the overall minority workforce percentage of 25%--it's still far better than the number for magazines.

Newspaper giant Hearst Corp., which has a magazine division that publishes 20 titles, including Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Esquire, has expressed to its managers the importance of having diverse pages and employees. Ellen Levine, Good Housekeepings editor-in-chief and president of ASME, says minority recruitment is on her personal agenda. This summer, Levine brought in an African American female intern. If hired, she would be only the third black woman on a staff of more than 50.

Levine recently opened up ASME's meetings to junior-level writers, which could provide networking opportunities for those few minorities working in the industry. However, ASME membership is still reserved for senior editors. "I'm very hopeful," says Levine, "that we will stop being so insular and that this won't be an exclusive, but inclusive group."


Insiders agree that the magazine industry is "cliquey and clubby." In other words: Editors only hire people they know. "It's a closed circle that hasn't opened up to embrace a lot of different backgrounds or anyone who doesn't fit the stereotypical profile-white, easternbred with an Ivy League education," says Northwestern's Whitaker. "It's going to take affirmative measures to change that profile."

In an article on affirmative action and liberal magazines in The Nation, writer Katha Pollitt points out that there are no minorities on the editorial staff of 21 at the Atlantic Monthly; none out of 14 at Harper's Bazair; two out of 22 at the New Republic and three or six (depending on how you define editorial) out of 100 at The New Yorker. During her 13-year tenure, Pollitt states there has been only one nonwhite person, a black woman, on The Nation's staff of 13.

In a follow-up article by Washington Post staff writer Howard Kurtz, editors at the so-called liberal magazines cited various reasons for the gaps. The response at the New Republic and Atlantic Monthly were that editors were hired from their pool of interns, most of whom were white; African Americans simply did not apply. Others, such as The New Yorker, acknowledged that the magazine had several black freelance writers, but didn't know how to entice them to become full-time staffers.

The most common excuse is that "'we can't find any experienced magazine journalists,'" says Dorothy Butler Gilliam, president of the National Association of Black journalists and a columnist at the Washington Post. "It's not about supply. Over the years, magazines have lost more black writers who got tired of bumping their heads up against a glass celling," she explains. "It's about making an overture to black journalists who are at different levels out there."

However, Folio:'s Russell says that something is putting people off before they even begin to apply. Magazines are giving off an unreceptive and unfriendly feeling to [minority] would-be professionals, and they're going into other fields."


Short of a government mandate, African Americans looking to break into this industry must make it their business to meet people. Industry insiders agree that strong connections are more likely to land the job or promotion than decent clips. But that does not free the top three magazine tiers-editors-in-chief, executive editors and managing editors--from the bottom-line responsibility of making a difference by going out and hiring minority journalists and integrating them into the system.

Editors like Fairchild's Greenwood, who visibly and consistently hire minorities, send a clear message to the magazine's staff and management. But the real challenge, according to those few African Americans who have advanced in the industry, is to help new black entrants do the same.

A major barrier for African Americans in the industry is the presumption by some people that writing is a "white talent," says Information Week Editor-in-Chief Joel Dreyfuss. "There is an absurd belief that there is something genetic attached to good writing."

A former BE executive editor, Dreyfuss got his start in 1969 at the Associated Press and later the Washington Post. Following BE, Dreyfuss spent seven years pigeonholed as an associate editor at Fortune magazine, another Time Inc. publication. "I was told I was a good editor," he recalls. "But there wasn't any offer of upward mobility." Dreyfuss found that in the technology field instead. "The opportunities there are greater for minorities," says Dreyfuss, also a former editor at PC magazine, a Ziff-Davis publication.

Unfortunately, fashion magazines like Elle and Glamour cannot make similar claims. Although Amy Gross, editorial director of Elle (a Hachette Filipacchi title), notes that the magazine is a model of openness, "not guilty of being a white, middle-of-the-road magazine," its employment numbers tell a different story. Out of a staff of 50, Elle has no full-time African American editors. Gross is quick to note, however, that she has tried in the past to recruit black writers, but with little success. Other editors offer similar claims, making it clear that minority recruitment efforts must be institutionalized to be effective.

Time Inc., in keeping with parent company Time Warner's corporate commitment, recently appointed Time magazine veteran Jack E. White, who is an African American, to spearhead its efforts in recruiting, retaining and promoting minorities at its various publications.

"If you look at the raw statistical numbers, we have made significant progress over the years in terms of minority recruitment," says Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief at Time Inc. "At the same rate, if you look at our mastheads, you see where we can do better," he admits.

The media giant has also made diversity targets part of its equity compensation package for managers. Managing editors get two bonuses, one based on the financial results of the magazine, the other--as much as 10% of salary--is performance-based, which includes minority hiring and training.

Despite this, the only Time Inc. manager who appears to be putting his money where his mouth is, is Frank Lalli, managing editor of Money. "I decided I wanted a staff that looks like America, which is important for a national magazine, explains Lalli. "[So], I have made it a policy here that we don't hire anyone for a job unless we have also interviewed a qualified minority or woman. All things being equal, I will hire a minority."

About 25% of Money's editorial staff consists of people of color; 15% are African American. However, they are mostly reporters--the entry-level tier of the magazine--and several were lured away from BLACK ENTERPRISE.

White says he is looking to bring in minorities particularly at senior-level positions where they can really make a difference. "In the company's 23-year history, I can recall only two senior-level editors," says White, "myself as national editor at Time, and Roy S. Johnson, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, now at Money." (At SI, Johnson was followed by another black writer, Bobby Clay.

Johnson, who was hired by Time Inc. shortly after graduating from Stanford University in 1978, says "it was impressive at that time because the company had an affirmative action officer, and they went out of their way to recruit me. I don't know if the company would go to those same lengths today." Johnson was flown to New York more than once for interviews and was given his pick of any Time Inc. publication. He chose Sports Illustrated, serving as a writer/reporter until 1981, when he left to work at the New York Times and the Atlanta Constitution, only to return to SI as a senior editor in 1989. Similarly, other African American reporters have had to leave Time Inc. and return, in order to move up.

White admits that theirs isn't an overnight solution, where you just hang a sign on the door that reads: "Time Inc. is hiring." He's hopeful about his crusade, but admits, "I'm not optimistic about being able to rapidly cure the results of 75 years of discrimination and lip service."


Though many journalists of color find themselves running up against an industry-built brick wall, it's not insurmountable. There are a few who have made it over to the top, such as Children's Business Editor-in-Chief Monique Greenwood.

Greenwood came to Fairchild, publisher of Women's Wear Daily, through its minority training program in 1981. The program recruits two recent college graduates and places them in entry-level positions at the company's 12 trade publications. Two months into the program, Greenwood's award-winning article on the impact of the black consumer on the fashion industry landed her an associate fashion editor's position at the Daily News Record, a men's fashion trade newspaper. She worked in various capacities at the company until 1985, when she was asked to help launch a new children's fashion publication.

After two years as managing editor of Children's Business, she became editor-in-chief. In that role, she has not only shaped the magazine's editorial coverage and ad pages to reflect a diverse society, but she has also brought other minorities into the fold. Of her seven-person editorial staff, four are African American.

However, the overall number of minorities working at Fairchild (3% out of an editorial pool of 700) could be better, concedes Greenwood, who also sits on the 12-person diversity committee of Capital Cities/ABC (the parent company of Fairchild). There are measures in place, she says, outside of the minority training program, to rectify the situation. But those measures are not without their detractors.

CAP/ABC recently initiated an over-hire policy, she says. "If we find a qualified minority, but we don't have an opening, we will hire that person anyway." The policy has not been welcomed by many of CAP/ABC's white employees, but Fairchild plans to stand by the mandate. Greenwood, for one, has no trouble defending it, quoting a fellow committee member: "Hundreds of white Harvard M.B.A.'s have been hired over the last 25 years, and the qualified black candidates' resumes were thrown in the trash. If we are going to reverse this situation, we have to take drastic measures."

Another top editor, who also got her start as an intern, is Stephanie Stokes Oliver, editor-in-chief of Heart & Soul, a black health and fitness magazine that is published by majority-owned Rodale Press. In 1974, Oliver was recruited out of Howard University by Conde Nast, publisher of GQ, Self, Vanity Fair, Mademoiselle, Vogue and Glamour, where Oliver first worked. She left in 1978 to become contemporary living editor at Essence, and was promoted to editor of the magazine in 1986.

"Magazines are comfortable hiring us from the bottom up--as editorial assistants--but not in positions in which decisions are made," says Oliver. "[Glamour] was not ready to have somebody black in editorial at that time."

Glamour Editor-in-Chief Ruth Whitney concedes that "the trick is not just to hire someone of color, but to hang on to them." The magazine takes two interns each year--one from ASME, the other from Spelman College, a result of Whitney's personal friendship with Johnetta B. Cole, president of the historically black college.

Out of a staff of more than 70, Glamour has only seven minorities: four Asian women, one Hispanic woman and two African American women. One of the black editorial staffers is a recent Spelman graduate and works as an assistant in the fashion department; the other is a writer.


Whitney concedes that more has to be done, but insists that "the trickle-down policy of an editor-in-chief only goes so far. You need an entire staff that is committed to diversity as well. I think we have that now. "

Conde Nast Director of Employee Programs, Bob Sapolsky, says, in addition to expanding its summer internship program to focus more on minority recruitment, the company is looking to hire people of color for mid- and senior-level positions in advertising, sales and editorial departments.

"We have developed a relationship with two search firms, one minority-owned, one minority-focused," he says. "The point is to reach out beyond our usual recruiting areas into other industries and populations."

Even younger--so-called hipper--magazines have been criticized. Since its inception three years ago, Vibe has received a lot of flack for not having a black editor-in-chief, even though the President and CEO, Keith Clinkscales, as well as more than half of its staff of 54, is black. Vibe is a joint venture between Time Inc. Ventures and Q Jones * David Salzman Entertainment. Says Clinkscales: "Hopefully, Vibe will be yet another portal for black journalists to get a foothold in the magazine business."

Clinkscales points out that there "are at least a few African Americans in editorial at the major majority-owned magazines. But at most places there are no black businesspeople. We also need to have people in place who control the resources," adds the former cofounder and publisher of the now defunct Urban Profile.

Like Clinkscales, Ms. magazine's Gillespie says it's important for African Americans to be in a position to hire people; this includes start-up magazines targeted at minority audiences. "We have to do some serious doorknocking and demanding," she says. "We can't just simply hold ground; we have to come up with aggressive strategies in order to gain ground."

A few publishing companies have recognized that there are diversity deficiencies in their staffs, and are taking small steps to rectify the situation. Others are at least take a good game.

But the grim reality is, were it not for the top three black magazines--Ebony, Essence and BLACK ENTERPRISE--and their younger siblings, including Emerge, YSB and Heart & Soul, a large pool of talented black journalists would have nowhere to turn--except the pages of the help wanted ads.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Black Enterprise 25th Anniversary Saluting the Past, Shaping the Future; only 3 major Black periodicals, Black Enterprise, Essence, and Ebony, employ and write significantly about Blacks in the U.S.
Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1995
Previous Article:Having your say.
Next Article:The 25 most significant events shaping Black business & professional development.

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