Entries in Essence (6)

Monday
Nov082010

Our Hope for ESSENCE Magazine: Goodbye Angela Burt Murray

Did y'all hear? It seems she's had enough of y'allz whining and complaining and is throwing up the deuce! Angela Burt Murray is leaving ESSENCE magazine. I knew her days were numbered when she went to the left on y'all for complaining about her hiring practices. Her passive aggressive response was not that of a woman who planned on hanging around. 

Angela Burt-Murray, editor at Essence magazine for the last five years, "has announced her plan to leave her post and relocate with her family to Atlanta," John Huey, editor-in-chief of Time Inc. told staff members on Friday. "We are beginning our search for a new editor, but in the interim, Sheryl Tucker, former executive editor of Time Inc., has agreed to serve as acting editor-in-chief. Sheryl, along with Marcia Gillespie, former editor-in-chief of Essence, will assist in the search and selection of a new top editor," he said in a memo. Journalisms

 

I know most of you are anti-ESSENCE, referring to the periodical affectionately as MESSENCE  *giggles*

But, I have a love hate relationship with ESSENCE magazine. They've given me tremendous opportunities, like getting to interview Jesse Jackson while he was in India, the day after Barack Obama won the South Carolina Primary. My interview ended up being picked up on CNN.com in the middle of a historic presidential campaign. how cool was that? In addition, they routinely do in depth stories about the abuse and exploitation of Black women and girls, unfortunately you have to flip through the pages of them encouraging Black women to scour strip clubs to find a date, accept all manner of foolishness in a mate (*cough* Kim Porter *cough*), and generally leave the impression that Black women are inherently inadequate. In the end, I don't think Angela Burt Murray liked her reading audience very much.

Susan Taylor LOVED us. She really did and it showed. Angela Burt Murray clearly thought we were broken and needed to be fixed. Irony of ironies, ESSENCE a magazine where Black women were supposed to come first, ended up catering to men. EVERYTHING about that magazine became about pleasing men, adjusting to men, comforting and protecting men, men men men. Men are great. Men are lovely, but Black women who have a freaking clue aren't going to keep shelling out their hard earned money to read about trifling celebrity relationships and How To Catch a Man, Part 1243. 

There was a noticeable shift in the editorial direction of the magazine. I have had the opportunity to work with several editors and fact checkers and even someone in accounting and all of those women have always be top notch except for a minor kerfluffel with some ESSENCE publicists who said I wouldn't write anything about ESSENCE unless it was negative :( So not true, but still funny to hear. 

Remember our run ins over the past three years such as when they sent employees to this blog to post astroturf comments after I called them out for their pro-stripper dating advice, but I think most Black women would like ESSENCE to DO BETTER!

So with the exit of the Editor Angela Burt Murray hopefully this marks the start of a new editorial direction and digital strategy.

 

So here are my hopes

 

  • I hope y'all get a new website designer because ESSENCE magazine is worthier of more than a blog masquerading as an internet portal.
  • I hope y'all spend as much time compiling lists of Black women who are fabulous as you spend on your various Bachelor auctions y'all run about once a quarter.
  • Try putting a non-celebrity on the cover. Take a frigging risk.
  • I hope you stop telling Black women that their lives begin and end with men.
  • I hope y'all fire WHOEVER is responsible for encouraging your readers to use sex trafficking (strip clubs) as bait to find a date.
  • Stop telling us that we have to settle and date men in prison, men with 5 kids, men who are shorter, taller, fatter, thinner, balder, harrier than we are. We're not picky, we just have preferences, deal with them. 
  • I hope you celebrate child free  single hood.  It can be totally awesome.
  • I hope y'all go find some Black folks who actually have a functioning relationship to put on the cover of your "Black Love" issue.
  • I hope y'all use the power of your platform to highlight Black women who are creating a different vision. If Debra Lee is too evil to use the power of her platform to transform the entertainment industry as opposed to attaching herself to it like a blood sucking leech, then ESSENCE should lead the way.
  • I hope y'all find some new voices and perspectives in the Black blogosphere and continue to feature Black bloggers in the print version of the magazine. Yay to Afrobella and others who've gotten published. 
  • I hope you think about the state of Black womanity and help Black women transcend their circumstances instead of exploiting their fears and insecurities to sell more magazines.

 

So to whoever replaces Angela Burt Murray, good luck and DO BETTER! 

 

Check out our ESSENCE magazine-related posts over the past three years, there are TONS. In retrospect maybe their publicists were right, there are a number of zingers in that archive. 

 

 

 

Thursday
Jul292010

ESSENCE Editor "Goes in" On Readers about Non-Black Fashion Editor - Has She Been Reading This Blog

Wow if I was still a subscriber to ESSENCE magazine, my feelings would be hurt right about now. We no longer post on Thursdays, but are making an exception because tomorrow is our last post before blogcation and there are so many things popping up at the last minute related to Black women and girls.

Well apparently folks are riled up because ESSENCE hired a non-Black woman (I'm not convinced she's White- Placas ) to be the fashion editor. I'm not the least bit interested in this controversy because when they started promoting sex slavery as a way to acquire male companionship, that was like crossing the River Jordan.... Try not to  look back. 

But this story took an interesting turn when the Editor in Chief, Angela Burt Murray decided to respond to criticism.  I wasn't expecting her to clap back like this.   She's had enough of y'allz whining and she's not going to take it anymore.  Plus y'all made her look bad in major publications like Huffpo, Gawker and Media Bistro. Angela Burt-Murray apparently decided to attend the Blogmother's School for Dealing with disgruntled readers and instead of apologizing, she chastened her readership for complaining in the first place :) I LOVE IT!

As Editor-in-Chief of Essence magazine I sometimes find myself in the unenviable position of ticking people off when it comes to matters of race. Whether it's a profile on P. Diddy and longtime girlfriend Kim Porter discussing their controversial relationship ("You're promoting having children out of wedlock and a negative image of black couples!" wrote one disgruntled reader) or assigning a guest column to singer Jill Scott to voice her opinion about black men who date outside their race, "The Wince" ("Reverse racism!" was a common critique). Or the February cover with a shirtless Reggie Bush ("He doesn't date black women--this is a betrayal of the highest order." Many readers shared that particular sentiment). And most recently my hiring of Ellianna Placas, who happens to be a white woman, to head our fashion department has stirred the passions of a small but vocal group in the blogosphere ("I feel like a girlfriend has died," stated one devastated African-American writer who not long agowrote about coming to terms with her daughter pledging a white sorority for the magazine). Really? Angela Burt- Murray

 

Well I guess she told Y'AAAAALL! Double snaps for the kids! She's not done however.

 

She then provides an explanation for her decision:

And when I set out to hire a new fashion director I certainly had no idea I would end up making this decision. I first got to know and came to respect Ellianna when she came to work with us nearly six months ago. We were conducting a search for a new director when she was hired to run the department on a freelance basis. I got to see firsthand her creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. Angela Burt Murray

She makes a interesting point HOWEVER, were there any women of color who were willing to accept the freelance position? Were they given the opportunity to compete for the position? Was this an attempt to appease the Time Warner suits? There has to be more to this story. Quick- somebody send me an email with the 411, I promise not to post about it :) I just want to know for my own personal satisfaction. I'll be speaking  in NYC next week, let's do lunch disgruntled ESSENCE employees!

She then goes in on her reading audience and explains WHY those feature articles on these crises get buried in the back of the magazine:

But interestingly enough, the things I think should most upset people and inspire boycotts and Facebook protests, often seem to go relatively unnoticed. Like when Essence conducted a three-part education series this year on the plight of black children falling through the cracks in under-performing schools. Crickets. When we reported on the increase in sex trafficking of young black girls in urban communities? Silence. (Yeah but y'all then turn around and give women advice to go pick up men in strip clubs... THAT'S sex trafficking!) When our writers investigated the inequities in the health care services black women receive? Deadly silence. When our editors highlighted data from the Closing the Gap Initiative report "Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and America's Future" that showed that the median net worth of single black women was $5? There went those darn crickets again. When we run pieces on how unemployment is devastating black men? Nada. When we run story after story on how HIV is the leading cause of death for black women age 18-34? Zilch. The things that really are the end of our world apparently aren't. Snarkilicious

Ain't she snarky? Sure she's obfuscating and redirecting, but I love snark and she served it up! I can laugh at this because she isn't talking to ME. I don't read ESSENCE anymore and I have encourage you not to. If you still read after this then you deserve to be spoken to like a child. 

The same thing happens on this blog ALL the time.  I put up a post about women in Haiti being exposed to increased violence after the earthquake and we get 3 comments. Put up a post about Chris Brown the floodgates open. I no longer blame or judge my audience. There may be many reasons why she doesn't hear anything including the fact that people tend to complain and not praise. They might not be responding because they don't disagree with the articles. She should know this. I'm not offended that y'all didn't comment on the Haiti article. I expected that you wouldn't. I posted it anyway because I wanted to increase awareness about the study and the work of MADRE (Our Bodies Are Still Trembling).

I will have to say this, their advice to Black women looking for men in the strip club, notwithstanding, ESSENCE's feature articles on social issues tend to be very good (compared to other Black-themed magazines) and having been a source for a couple of those articles, the writers and editors of those articles work very hard... though the articles sometimes get buried at the back.

We here at What About Our Daughters don't care WHO works at ESSENCE magazine.  They are not a Black owned company and it appears that one day they will no longer be Black-run.  Your question is where are the alternatives to ESSENCE magazine? Heart and Soul comes close, but doesn't have the same polish.  Sister to Sister always looks like somebody was playing around on Pagemaker.  Ebony, while improving greatly over the past year isn't a fashion and beauty mag. So folks are basically going to do what they do with BET, the NAACP, and anything else Black, complain and then go back to their daily routine when it gets old.

P.S. Is the NABJ going to condemn ESSENCE they way they condemned CNN for not hiring a person of color to replace Campbell Brown? Just curious////

Previous ESSENCE Posts

When Time Inc. Employees ATTACK with "Astroturfing" !!! What Are they Afraid of?

Why You Should BURN the June 2009 Issue of ESSENCE Magzine Part 1

Bedroom Bioterrorism :Why You Should Burn the June 2009 Issue of ESSENCE Part II

ESSENCE's "New Normal" ain't "Normal"--Part III of Why You Should Burn the June 2009 Issue of ESSENCE magazine

 

PPS Its more interesting that she gave this letter to The Grio which is a part of the NBC Universal Family instead of Black Voices which is part of AOL and (I think) under the same overseer as ESSENCE- Time Warner.