Essence Editor Says She Was Fired
Friday, March 8, 2013
Constance C.R. White has disclosed that her departure as editor-in-chief of Essence magazine was involuntary and the result of repeated clashes with Martha Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc. who White says sought to limit the way black women were portrayed.
"I went in there with passion and excitement and high expectations," White told Journal-isms, referring to her 2011 hiring. "It wasn't what I expected at all.
"What needs to happen is the reader is getting lost and the reader has to be at the center. To make their world smaller is unacceptable," White said by telephone. "A lot of the readers have sensed" what is happening, she said.
Essence, the nation's leading magazine for black women, was originally black-owned but has not fared well under Time Inc. ownership, White maintained. Nelson vetoed such pieces as a look at African American art and culture, and "I was not able to make the creative hires that needed to be made," White said.
She elaborated by email, "When was the last time you saw Essence in the community advocating for or talking with Black women?
"No more T-shirts with a male employee's face on it being distributed at the [Essence] Festival."
Essence announced White's departure in a terse statement on Feb. 8. No explanation was given.
But White told Journal-isms that her exit came after "another tug of war with them" in January. "Them" was principally Nelson.
Nelson, a 20-year Time Inc. veteran, became editor-in-chief of Time Inc. in January, responsible for the editorial content of all 21 of Time Inc.'s U.S. magazines and its digital products, according to her bio. Before that, Nelson spent two years as editorial director, overseeing the 17 titles and editors in the company's Style & Entertainment Group and Lifestyle Group.
The final "tug of war" came in January, White said. Referring to Nelson, White recalled, "My boss said, 'you know what? It's time to go.' I was asked to leave my position. I asked, 'Was it something we can discuss, or has the decision been made?' She said, 'The decision has been made.'
"I had a certain point of view about black women being central to this magazine. The boss didn't agree with me, and the president didn't agree with me," she said, referring to Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc. "It became an untenable situation." She would not comment on whether she had a contract with the publication.
Ebanks issued this statement Friday night: "We truly wish Constance well. Essence exists to affirm and inspire Black women. We always have and we always will."
Essence magazine debuted in 1970, the product of a communications company founded in 1968 by a group of African Americans that included as principals Edward T. Lewis and Clarence O. Smith.
Time bought 49 percent of Essence Communications in 2000 and absorbed the rest in 2005.
Lewis said in 2000, "The reason Time Warner is interested in Essence is they are interested in the editorial view of the magazine. They are not there to change it."
Indeed, Essence still proclaims on its website, "ESSENCE is Where Black Women Come First for news, entertainment and motivation. ESSENCE occupies a special place in the hearts of millions of Black women — [it's] not just a magazine but her most trusted confidante, a brand that has revolutionized the magazine industry and has become a cultural institution in the African-American community."
However, White's comments indicate that white corporate ownership has changed the magazine after all.
"This is a magazine where the central DNA was laid down by Gordon Parks," she said, referring to the famed African American photographer who was its editorial director from 1970 to 1973. White intimated that her efforts to maintain Parks' standards had been rebuffed.
"How is it that from 2000, when Susan [L. Taylor, longtime editor] left — she was pushed out — we have had about five editors, including two acting editors, yet Essence continues to decline? So where's the problem? And the editors are the black women. 'They are disposable. Let's keep changing them.'
"The point is, it didn't start with me," White said of the conflicts between top Essence editors and Time Inc. management. "If I can make a difference, I'd like to. If no one speaks up, it's possible it won't end with me."
She continued in an email, "Martha Nelson cannot shape the editorial [content] for the magazine, and it was a strange use of her time considering People, the cash cow of Time inc accounting for over $1 billion, was down 12-18 percent in the last two years and All You was down 38 percent." All You is described on its advertising website as "proudly" providing the value-minded woman "with practical, attainable, no-nonsense ideas for her everyday life."
The Publishers Information Bureau reported in January that the number of advertising pages in Essence dropped by 10.3 percent during 2012. Industrywide, ad pages were down by 8.2 percent. However, circulation rose from 1,051,000 in 2011 to 1,104,871 in 2012, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, previously the Audit Bureau of Circulations. For the industry overall, magazine circulation declined last year.
Influencing White's efforts to speak with Journal-isms, she said, was the decision by Time Warner this week to spin off Time Inc. magazines. As a result, Laura Lang, CEO of Time Inc. since 2011, said she would step down.
"I believe that Essence may have fared better under Laura Lang's regime because people became more accountable for their jobs rather than playing out their personal politics. But with her departure I just don't know what's going to become of Essence," White said.
The Jamaica-born White was style director, brand consultant and spokeswoman for eBay, the online company, when she was named to lead Essence. "White was previously the founding Fashion Editor for Talk magazine, a celebrated Style Reporter for The New York Times and the Executive Fashion Editor for Elle magazine," an announcement said when she was named. "She also served as Associate Editor at Women's Wear Daily and W magazine and began her career at Ms. magazine, as assistant to co-Founder Gloria Steinem."
"I still love magazines," White told Journal-isms. "I'm considering my next move. I'm happy to be able to see more of my kids," of whom there are three. "Later this month I will be speaking at Syracuse University on branding and the media and I will resume my appearances on NY Live!," referring to "New York Live," a daily lifestyle show on New York's WNBC-TV.
"I'd really like to see Essence move forward in a stronger way. I'm even more concerned about how Essence has fared being part of Time Inc. It hasn't fared particularly well. Hopefully, this upheaval will be for the better.
"There has to be a come-to-Jesus moment when people say, 'Here's what we're going to do and here are the right people to do it. We are a very valuable audience. In my farewell speech I asked my team to present to management what needs to happen at Essence to ensure its survival because they know.
"Essence needs stability and the brand needs a leader with a vision. Black women are social leaders, cultural leaders, we are aspirational and spiritual. Black women deserve the best. Essence is the last place where black women should be demeaned and diminished."
- Associated Press: Meredith shares fall on Time Warner spin-off plans
- Danielle Belton, the Black Snob: Fmr. Essence Editor Constance C.R. White Says She Clashed With Time Inc. Over Black Women
- Amy Chozick, New York Times: In a Spinoff of Time Inc., Evolution Is Complete
- Clutch magazine: Former Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance White Says She Was Fired For Clashing With Time Inc. Head
- Bill Cromwell, Media Life Magazine: Readers: Magazines aren’t that bad off
- Daniel Gross, Daily Beast: Why Time Warner Felt It Had to Spin Off Magazine Unit Time Inc.
- Keith J. Kelly, New York Post: 'Lighter mood' as a new day dawns at Time
- Sam Mamudi, Barron's: Time Warner Rises After Spin-Off Decision; Meredith Falls 7%
- Bill Mickey, Folio:: Time Inc. Spinoff Has a Bumpy Road Ahead
- Naturally Moi: Essence Editor Says She Was Fired; "It wasn't what I expected at all"
Isoul Harris, an alumnus of People magazine, the Huffington Post and Atlanta-based 944 Magazine, has been promoted from executive editor to editor-in-chief of Uptown magazine. The March issue is his first as top editor. Harris succeeds Angela Bronner Helm.
"I certainly want to build on what the brand has become over last 9 years," Harris, 39, told Journal-isms by email, "a publication presenting African-American life in the most beautiful, professional and creative way possible.
"The current March cover with comedian and actor Kevin Hart leaping mid-air sporting a Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo jacket exhibits the new direction in which I would like to take the magazine: stylish, fun, and energetic. That coupled with more substantive pieces such as 'The New America,' a feature about post-Obama America, which was written by MSNBC host and civil rights leader Al Sharpton. I want UPTOWN to be a book of sophistication and substance."
Harris' first book, "Nicki Minaj: Hip Pop Moments 4 Life," is due from Omnibus Press on April 1. He says he has interviewed Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith, Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Drew Barrymore, LeAnn Rimes, Usher, Beyoncé, Outkast, Vince Vaughn and Queen Latifah.
Uptown, based in New York, has a circulation of 228,488, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, previously the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Soledad O'Brien, who is giving up her CNN morning show, "Starting Point," in exchange for forming a production company and supplying documentaries to CNN on a nonexclusive basis, says she has obtained the rights to the "Black in America" and "Latino in America" franchises.
"We struck an unusual deal," O'Brien told Diane Brady of Business Week on Thursday. "I’ll get to leave CNN with my catalog and documentaries. We were able to create a brand at CNN — Black in America — that I now own. I can take that brand and extend it in any way I want. You have Netflix (NFLX) and all these channels that are looking for interesting and different ways to tell stories. To have ownership of Black in America and Latino in America is hugely important.
"I absolutely pushed for that — it was critical to me. I’m so affiliated with this brand that there wasn't a real struggle. I don't just own it, but I can now take it across other platforms.
"I’m not exclusive to CNN. If I decide I want to go and do a show somewhere, I can go and do it. I’ve never owned my own content. Most people in TV do not own their own production company. In fact, most of us don't even own our own Facebook (FB) pages, and some don't own their Twitter account. . . ."
"In a case of apparent plagiarism, Fox News pundit Juan Williams lifted — sometimes word for word — from a Center for American Progress report, without ever attributing the information, for a column he wrote last month for the Hill newspaper," Alex Seitz-Wald reported Thursday for Salon.
"Almost two weeks after publication, the column was quietly revised online, with many of the sections rewritten or put in quotation marks, and this time citing the CAP report. It also included an editor's note that read: 'This column was revised on March 2, 2013, to include previously-omitted attribution to the Center for American Progress.'
"But that editor’s note mentions only the attribution problem, and not the nearly identical wording that was also fixed.
"In a phone interview Thursday evening, Williams pinned the blame on a researcher who he described as a 'young man.' "
Erik Wemple wrote Friday for the Washington Post, "So what Williams is saying here is that he lifted his researcher's words. Why, then, wasn't the researcher credited in the piece?
Referring to Hugo Gurdon, editor in chief of the Hill, Wemple continued, "When asked about that matter, Gurdon replied, 'I’m not sure that researchers always do get credit.'
"They should. The only time they rear their heads should not be when they allegedly screw up."
- Paul Waldman, American Prospect: How Many Big-Time Pundits Are Plagiarists?
"Latinos own smartphones, go online from a mobile device and use social networking sites at similar — and sometimes higher — rates than do other groups of Americans, according to a new analysis of three surveys by the Pew Research Center," Mark Hugo Lopez, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Eileen Patten reported Thursday for the Pew Hispanic Center.
"The analysis also finds that when it comes to using the internet, the digital divide between Latinos and whites is smaller than what it had been just a few years ago. Between 2009 and 2012, the share of Latino adults who say they go online at least occasionally increased 14 percentage points, rising from 64% to 78%. Among whites, internet use rates also increased, but only by half as much — from 80% in 2009 to 87% in 2012.
"Over the same period, the gap in cellphone ownership between Latinos and other groups either diminished or disappeared. In 2012, 86% of Latinos said they owned a cellphone, up from 76% in 2009. . . ."
The evidence is mounting that familiarity with social media is becoming mandatory for journalists.
Twitter "is building a powerful media company that is a threat to many of the biggest players in digital media," Brian Morrissey reported Wednesday for Digiday.
"Its ambitions to this point have been dogged by questions of scale. Remember all those stories about Twitter quitters? No more. Two hundred million monthly active users, the company reports, are double last year’s number. But still, how many people really tweet? The company now processes 1 billion tweets every two and a half days. During New Year's in Japan, that meant 33,000 tweets per second. Half of all Americans now see, read about or hear about tweets every day. These are facts that back up its execs' contention that Twitter is now a 'global town hall.'
"All that scale and activity gives Twitter something else: leverage. . . ."
Meanwhile, Lynne Varner, editorial writer and columnist at the Seattle Times, wrote Friday about the backlash against the Seattle Public Schools after it began investigating a class exploring white privilege.
Varner told Journal-isms by email, "I also created a Word Cloud adjacent to my column to get responses from people about how they view the treatment of minority students in Seattle. I opened it to responses from parents and non-parents, in Seattle and outside, because I want to better understand how the public education system overall treats minority students. As you know with Word Clouds, the more a word is chosen the larger it will be."
- Ted Prodromou, Entrepreneur: Building Your Brand on Twitter
In applying for a $3.5 million job-creation grant last year from Miami-Dade County, Fusion, the new ABC-Univision English-language cable network targeted to Hispanics, "promised to create 346 new jobs over the next five years — 201 in 2013 — in addition to retaining 137 jobs in the county," Veronica Villafañe recalled Tuesday for TVNewsCheck. "The new jobs would have an average salary of $81,000.
"So far, there isn't much evidence of such hiring.
"A LinkedIn site currently shows only 10 job listings for Fusion, including a digital reporter, coordinating producer, assignment manager and director of communications and public affairs, but an ABC spokesperson says they’re 'working 24/7 to bring people on board.' . . . "
"Having won our independence in a nonviolent struggle, Indians join Americans in celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership of the civil rights movement in the United States," Nirupama Rao, India's ambassador to Washington, wrote Friday for Politico. "On Aug. 28, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where King delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech, and, on April 4, we will mourn the 45th anniversary of his assassination.
"On March 10, we will mark another milestone moment in King's public ministry and personal journey. On that day, 54 years ago, he returned from a monthlong journey to India where he rededicated himself to the nonviolent struggle for justice to which the leader of our nation's independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi, gave his life.
Rao continued, "Through most of the past century, Indians and African-Americans supported each other's struggles because we identify with each other’s predicaments and principles. . . . " He elaborated on the Gandhi-African American connection.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York Times: The Good, Racist People
- Khalid Salaam, the Shadow League: Social Illiteracy Is What's Plaguing America's Race Relations
- Fatima Shaik, In These Times: Black and Bengali: A new book traces the hidden story of a mixed-race community.
"In the wake of Hugo Chávez's death Wednesday afternoon, British GQ re-published an interview in which British supermodel Naomi Campbell fawned over the 'rebel angel' Venezuelan autocrat," Andrew Kirell reported Friday for Mediaite.
"Within hours, however, the piece was mysteriously scrubbed from the site. Was this a protective PR demand from Campbell's people? After all, she's in the midst of promoting her new Oxygen reality show? . . ."
- Editorial, Al Día, Philadelphia: In Latin America, U.S. Would Rather Talk About Villains than Partners
- Katie Glueck, Politico: Jesse Jackson on Hugo Chavez: 'Democracies evolve'
- Vanessa Rodriguez, Fox News Latino: After Hugo Chavez's Death, Venezuelan Expatriates Ponder a Return to Homeland
- Noah Rothman, Mediaite: Jesse Jackson's 'Tribute' At Chavez Funeral: He Fed Hungry, Lifted Poor, Helped People 'Realize Their Dreams'
- Tonyaa Weathersbee, the Root: Why the Black and Poor Loved Hugo Chávez
- Mimi Whitefield and Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald: For Venezuelans, a long history in South Florida (March 9)
- " 'In Plain Sight' is a special initiative by NBC News to report on poverty in America. Our work is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation," NBC News says on its website. "In America's most dangerous and poorest city, Camden, N.J., bullet holes are visible in a church's stained glass window, crosses commemorating the murdered line the outside of city hall and the police staff is so outnumbered and outgunned, drug deals occur in the open. Rock Center's Brian Williams visits Camden and talks to those fighting to turn around the forgotten city." So began an introduction to a "Rock Center" segment this week. The series is also running on the "NBC Nightly News."
- BET and Univision picked up Walter Cronkite awards from the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with both cited for serving their viewers "extremely well" with the kind of "solid coverage" the judges said all Americans deserve, John Eggerton reported Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable. BET said its award recognized five BET News broadcasts, "Michelle Obama on a Mission: Impact Africa," about the first lady's journey to South Africa and Botswana, "President Obama Answers Black America," "The Curious Case of Citizen Cain," about former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, "Second Coming?: Will Black America Decide 2012?" and "Battleground 2012: Countdown With The First Couple." Univision was cited for its presidential forums. Watch the winning entries.
- "The cover says it all: 'Simply The Best!' Which is why we can't believe this April 2013 issue of Vogue magazine marks Tina Turner's first time gracing the glossy. Finally!" Julee Wilson wrote Friday for the Huffington Post. Turner is 73, and the Vogue in question is the German edition.
- The Associated Press added an entry in its Stylebook Thursday on mental illness: "Do not describe an individual as mentally ill unless it is clearly pertinent to a story and the diagnosis is properly sourced. When used, identify the source for the diagnosis. Seek firsthand knowledge; ask how the source knows. . . ."
- As scheduled, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker hosted a networking reception in New York Friday as part of the Region 2 conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He "Just reinforced commitment to diversity n working w NAHJ," NAHJ President Hugo Balta messaged Journal-isms. The appearance was scheduled before NAHJ and the National Association of Black Journalists complained that Zucker's first hires have included no journalists of color.
- Justice B. Hill, a veteran sports reporter who writes for sports websites that include MLB.com and SBnation.com, is not optimistic about Richard E. Lapchick's suggestion that news organizations "adopt a Rooney Rule" to boost the numbers of African American sports journalists. "Rooney sounds great, except in its execution," Hill wrote Thursday for BET.com. "In reality, the rule has proved an embarrassment. Blacks went 0-for-15 in the latest round of Rooney interviews for head coaching and front office jobs. . . . "
- "According to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, women carry zero clout in the sports media world," Chris O'Shea wrote Thursday for Fishbowl NY. "Deitsch published a list of the 'The 10 Most Powerful People in Sports Media' and there's not a single woman made the cut. There are even 10 additional honorable mentions, but still it's all dudes, all the time. . . ."
- In Vermont, "The Caledonian Record newspaper of St. Johnsbury is being criticized by the Asian American Journalists Association for publishing a poster using a print type associated with Chinese calligraphy for the words 'Fry Rice' to urge a local school to beat its opponent — Rice Memorial High School — in a state championship basketball game," Wilson Ring reported Friday for the Associated Press. In an editorial Saturday (http://bit.ly/Yj75aB ), the newspaper said the back-page poster meant no offense to any individual or group. The editorial said it sought a play on words, and simply invoking ethnic customs does not constitute racism, AP reported.
- "Radio One, Inc is flipping its Indy's Music Channel station – WDNI – to Spanish," Veronica Villafañe reported Wednesday for her Media Moves site. "Telemundo Indy will start broadcasting on channel 19 next Monday, March 11, making it the only Spanish-language broadcast station in the market. . . ."
- "It took tax evasion to bring down Capone," Philip Bump reported Thursday for the Atlantic. Referring to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Bump continued, "A Native American group hopes that another arcane economic law — trademarks — can do the same to the Washington Redskins. Later today, the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will consider if the NFL team should lose its federal trademark because it violates Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, which bars any mark that '[c]onsists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute . . . ' "
- Crystal Wright, who runs the blog Conservative Black Chick and the PR firm Baker Wright Group, LLC, "has formed a new political action committee designed to help make the Republican Party more inclusive," Byron Tau and Anna Palmer reported Thursday for Politico's Politico Influence column. "The PAC will support women and candidates of color at the state and federal level, Wright told PI. Obama 'bothered to talk to minority groups and women,' Wright said. 'We haven't bothered. The Republican Party hasn't bothered to really talk to most ethnic groups in 20-plus years.' "
- A "Celebration of Life" service for NPR journalist Brenda Box Johnson, who died Thursday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Demaine Funeral Home, 5308 Backlick Road, Springfield, Va., her friend, Geri Coleman Tucker of USA Today, announced. The funeral home can be reached at 703-941-9428.
- Viviana Hurtado, founder of the Wise Latinas Club, Laura Donnelly Gonzalez, COO and co-founder of the digital magazine Latinitas, and Alicia Rascon and Dream Activists finished in a three-way tie for New Americano awards presented at the Social Revolución, the official Latino event at the 2013 SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Dream Activists is an online network of social media activists who advocate the enactment of the DREAM Act by sharing the stories of individual DREAMers online.
- Lynn Norment, a former editor at Ebony magazine active in the National Association of Black Journalists, has launched Chicago-based Lynn Norment Media "to offer services and expertise to individuals, agencies, corporations and government entities to advance and elevate reputations, brands, products and personal/business goals" as well as writing and editing services.
- "Gunmen stormed the offices of a television station in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Thursday amid a protest outside the station's studios, according to news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday. "The gunmen abducted at least five journalists and media workers, the reports said, although all were released within 24 hours."
- "At a meeting of the Beijing delegates during China's National People's Congress, a journalist asked a question about air pollution that lasted over 3-minute mark, and saw her almost break down in tears numerous times," Adam Taylor reported Thursday for Business Insider. "The delegates response? Nothing at all. . . ."
- "Twenty-one people have been arrested for a wave of crimes that included 11 murders (six of which were committed against police officers), the abduction for hours of five employees of El Siglo de Torreón newspaper, the murder of a mayoral candidate, and attempted murder of a current mayor in a large metropolitan area in central Mexico, according a senior federal official," Mike O’Connor wrote Friday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The question is, will the arrests have any effect on the larger climate of fear among the area's press and public? . . ."
- "It's the biggest news of the year in Kenya: A presidential election with huge potential for violence. Why then are the headlines so boring, the TV broadcasts so dull? the Associated Press asked Thursday. "The answer: Kenyan media are self-censoring the story to avoid fanning the flames of conflict. Kenya's Media Owners Association told The Associated Press that media leaders made a 'gentleman’s agreement' to balance the national interest and the public's right to know, including not reporting anything that could incite ethnic tensions and not airing political statements live. . . ." Kenya's election commission declared Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta the winner, but Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Saturday he would not concede and would challenge the results in court.
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
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