Susan Taylor Leaves Essence Magazine

Good luck to Ms. Taylor.

I met her many years ago when I was a kid. Back then, I had this idea I was going to be a writer, journalist, author and whatnot. She was gracious and classy, which unfortunately cannot be said of the other people who work in the field. They helped me decide that working in the media was not for me.

According to the NY Times, December 2007, Susan Taylor is leaving Essence Magazine:

Ms. Taylor, 61, joined Essence in 1970, the year it was first published, as a freelance fashion and beauty editor after founding her own company, Nequai Cosmetics. She became editor in chief in 1981, a post she held until 2000, when she was promoted to publications director.

I suppose it was to be expected: it was going to happen sooner or later. The magazine was started by Clarence O. Smith and Edward Lewis. In 2000, they accepted Time Warner‘s money. The media conglomerate ended up holding 49% of Essence.

Why should he look a gift horse in the mouth?

From interviews I read with Edward Lewis, having Richard D. Parsons (who’s African American) as CEO of the Time Warner – he felt sorta “safe” working with them. The rest of the company was sold to Time Warner in 2005 when the dynamic duo of Essence parted ways. One of the catalysts for their breakup: Bob Johnson’s sale of BET, which made him America’s first black billionaire.

I wasn’t aware of this, but Johnson Publications (Ebony Magazine) was also an investor in Essence. There were some criticisms from other black business owners as to why there wasn’t an effort made to sell it to fellow blacks.

I can tell you right now why that didn’t happen. Barry Gordy was the first to sell-out and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Black businesses still thrived and grew. Plenty of black media entrepreneurs learned from his example and followed in his footsteps: Russell Simmons, Andre Young (Dr. Dre), and Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), etc.

Has the magazine changed since it acquired a new owner? Yup. The Puff Daddy with his baby momma issue, which celebrated an unmarried, totally messed up couple told enough people where things were heading.

Essence appears to get much more advertisers now. It has so many white girls in the ad pages, I sometimes wonder if I’m reading Cosmopolitan. Getting with a media giant gets the ad dollars flowing like never before.

Irony, however, is Essence’s main forte.

I’d say that a good percentage of the advertising is devoted to what is considered (by whom?) a black woman’s main problem: her hair. And what is the solution to this hair dilemma? Extremely harsh hair relaxers aka perms.

Essence recently devoted an article to alopecia, which is a very serious problem among black women. This is like a magazine that’s devoted to health, stuffed with ads for smoking, occasionally filling in with an article contemplating the causes of emphysema and lung cancer.

I question if the change of ownership, among other things, going to be at the cost of black female dignity? I mean, just because a brand says it is black-focused doesn’t mean it’s going to be good and mindful of blacks.

There are many magazines out there that are aimed at the black audience, who owns them, and whether their final message benefits their readers is another story.

Lastly, I read that Essence‘s circulation is 1 million readers a month, 29% of them male. Interesting.

Sources

Essence of a break up. (Business News)
Essence Editor Is Leaving Magazine
Ed Lewis defends Essence magazine sale
Time Inc. to Buy Out Essence

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