Essence Hires a White Male for Managing Editor Role, Ignores Sentiments of Readership

July 13, 2011 ‐ By TheEditor

Michelle Obama Essence CoverBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

After hiring a white female fashion director last year caused a great deal of disappointment in the black community, Essence magazine has recently chosen to hire a white man to serve as managing editor. Rumors have been circulating  for days concerning this decision, which was first reported by writer Christelyn Karazin. Essence editor-in-chief Constance White (who is relatively new to her role) confirmed that Michael Bullderdick will in fact step into this executive position at Essence,  “to manage production and workflow,” according to the black media blog Journal-isms. White stresses that Bullderdick will have no editorial decision making power at the magazine that promotes itself as the brand “where black women come first.”

Karazin notes the irony of the Essence tag line in her piece, given that the editorial message of the magazine expresses a lack of appreciation for black women. Of particular note is the way Essence sells out black women regarding love, in her opinion:

Personally, I care not about Mr. Bullerdick swinging his manhood all over the New York offices of Time Warner.  It was inevitable.  Essence has become completely irrelevant to a new segment of black women who actually feel like their smarts, looks and loyalty should be appreciated by ALL men, of all races, not just by the yearly dog-bone, “10 Black Men Who Want You!” piece geared to stroke the egos of men whose heads are bigger than a Dodger’s baseball bobblehead, and frankly don’t need it any more.  They won.  We lost.

Essence has taught us over the last few decades that black women should expect LESS not MORE from their partners.  We should not expect to be married, because black men don’t want to.  We shouldn’t expect help with raising a child, because 73% of black men don’t want to.  We shouldn’t speak about how educated or well-travelled we are, because it makes black men feel inadequate.

She articulates well the feeling many African-American women have: Essence is out of touch. It has been slowly devolving into a company merely making a product that satisfies black women just enough to attract advertisers seeking to target that market. Choosing a white man to run a black woman’s magazine even at the business level is yet another public rejection of the mission Essence magazine claims to believe in. It’s certainly not black female centric.

Hiring white fashion director Elliana Placas caused a fiery backlash that may have cost the previous editor-in-chief her job. Why would Essence make a similar mistake again?

Yes, Bullderdick is a magazine industry veteran, according to his profile on LinkedIn. And yes, Time Warner, the parent company of Essence, is a hard-nosed business before it is a servant of the African-American community. At the same time, Essence was founded to address the exclusion of black women’s perspectives from mainstream magazines. Because of this, it has a social responsibility to its audience to work towards publishing industry parity on all levels. Attempting to support this mission is one of the reasons black women read the magazine. By ignoring that central idea, yet again, Essence gives more African-American females cause to detach itself from the brand and seek affirming emotional nourishment elsewhere.

Michael Bullderdick might be a great executive, but part of the reason he is so seasoned is that, as a white male, he has more doors of opportunity open to him. This is what allowed him to garner the experience that makes him seem more valuable. But, hiring him to run a black woman’s magazine based on that criteria defeats the purpose of the publication. It re-inscribes the very system of preferences that prevent black women from attaining the same level of expertise at other magazines in the first place. Essence should be a training ground for black female magazine executives, not a place where — yet again– they are excluded from the top levels of leadership. Readers know this intuitively, and will respond to this rejection by rejecting the magazine in return.

Not a very sound business decision. No amount of experience Bullderdick has can counteract the effect of his presence creating a magazine black women don’t want to read.

Attempts at colorblind hiring are driven by noble and money-smart intentions. But in instances like these, it negates the healing power a brand like Essence symbolizes. Black women want an entity like Essence to represent us well and give us power — of all kinds — shining like a beacon that compensates for the inadequate treatment the rest of society presents. If the upper managers of Time Warner keep ruining the spiritual gift of the brand, they will soon find themselves without the audience they are taking for granted.

For now, it’s clear that Essence is a magazine where money comes first. The desires of black women? Second or third, if at all.

 

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  • Ai Margera

    Geeze Louise, the man is only editing the stories and making sure production flows in a timely manner. Do some RESEARCH on what a Managing Editor does.

    What you should really be concerned with is the quality of work being submitted by the contributing writers. If anyone is OUT OF TOUCH it is them. They are the ones writing it and if YOU FEEL you can do better, SUBMIT A QUERY and write your own.

    STOP LOOKING TO THE MEDIA TO DEFINE WHO YOU ARE!!!!!! DEFINE YOURSELF!!!!!!!!

  • Denise

    I did not wait until a white female or male was employed by Essence but stop buying this magazine when it was no longer owned by blacks. Call it what you want I'm selective of who I spend my Black $$$ with!

  • In light of everyone's disappointment I encourage you to check out POIZE MAGAZINE.COM

    What is Poize?
    Poize Magazine is a uniting force that gives voice to black women worldwide. We do this by featuring the stories of women who take us through their journeys to success: highlighting the trials and tribulations they may have encountered along the way. Their success, often against all odds, has the power to inspire us to continue to achieve greatness.
    Our Vision
    Poize envisions a world in which all women of African descent are valued and celebrated for their achievements, courage, diversity, and majesty.
    Why Poize? Why Now?
    oIt is time for a magazine that deepens our appreciation of black women, a magazine that says “beauty is as beauty does,” a magazine that is a conversation among Black women, one that gives voice to the many and unites us no matter where we are.
    oPOIZE. Its name speaks to the inner beauty of black women throughout the world. It connects our journeys and celebrates our triumphs. It sheds light on our accomplishments, our spirituality, intelligence, longevity and our collective being.
    oWe women are more powerful than we acknowledge or even know. Each day we engineer global transformation no matter where we reside: in our countries, our communities and in our homes. We are the future of the world.
    oBy joining the movement, you have made a commitment to build a stronger world through the empowerment and recognition of women of African descent – this world’s untapped resource!
    What to expect from Poize
    oA magazine for black women with a global point of view that projects black women in a way that is uplifting and empowering.
    oA magazine that tells the stories of black women around the globe, whose skin is toughened by the problems they face at work, home, and in society at large.
    oA magazine that encourages our men to take pride in our intelligence, applaud our perseverance, and respect our bodies.
    oA magazine that gives you permission to expect more for yourself and your children. We do this by showing the positive effects such actions have on our communities.
    oA magazine that believes, “to whom much is given much is expected.” We celebrate women who give out of their abundance as well as those who give despite their inadequacy.

    POIZEMAGAZINE.COM

  • disgusted

    To hire a white editor inspitel of the protests of the folks who read the magazine is an insult in my opinion. White folks do it all the time ( ie hire only white folks for their magazines) but of course no one says anything about it. Look at the racial make-up of the folks in top positions at the white magazines and see who is there, not black folks. so once again a position that should have gone to a sista is taken by a white man, because of course he knows best. BTW Essence lost my respect when I heard they had the likes of Shaunie Oneal and NeNe Leakes at the Essence Music Festival presenting on BlackWomen Empowerment!! If nothing else that has to tell u how out touch the folks at essence are!!

  • Sheryl williams

    geez people, for the nearly 20-something years while susan was there, the managing editor was a white woman. while alexis has valid points, weren't you the one who also wrote on black voices that it doesn't matter who owns a black title and didn't black voices have a white news editor–the only one who convinced your black staff to follow obama's political run. just saying.

  • chaka1

    The main point is when there are major decisions to be made about the magazine, it won't be done from a black woman's perspective. It will follow the corporate bottom line. Essence will never "rock the boat" or be outspoken on issues that are critical of the parent company and it's financial objectives.

  • Otter

    Blacks represent what 12-14% of the population? Typical media…too which blacks call "white media" focuses more than 12-14% on blacks. Blacks are angry because their 100% black media with all black staff allows any whites to be involved.
    And further more saying all those woman magazines are white is false. If the title was "White Lady Magazine" and they only hired whites then I would agree with you. However these so called "white magazines" hire all races to work on them and do in fact highlight blacks on occasion, probably more that 13% of the time.

  • Now i do understand that women would like to see other women in charge when it comes to a magazine about women, especially when its a certain race or religion that it supposedly specializes in. However from reading the article and the headline itself, its more bout the dude being White and that shouldnt be the issue.

    If one of the million magazines out there that basically focus on middle aged White women was to hire a Black man for a prominent role and readers and people like the author of this article came out so venomous against it,, what would the response be from our community? We already know and i see other comments stating it. Gotta take out the hypocrite hat off at some point in life people.

  • TriciaB

    I am a black woman and I think magazines like this are ridiculous. First of all, are only black people allowed to work for this company? Why is there such a concern for the color of who works for or runs this company? That sounds just a little bit like segregation to me. As I recall, it is illegal to not hire someone based on their race. And the motto, "where black women come first." Please. A magazine of the same caliber with the motto "where white women come first" would be all over the media with riots breaking out everywhere within minutes of its publication. I just want to say that so many people have fought for civil liberties and to end injustices of our race and we just go right back and do the same damn thing that was done to us. It makes us look ignorant and just supports the stereotypes that have followed black people throughout the years. It is time for African Americans to not forget the past, but stop blaming it for all the problems we face today. If we continually feel threatened because someone of a different race gets a job that we think is for "black folk" only, how are we, as a people supposed to succeed in anything?

  • LolaFloRida

    I have to agree with Tia. The ONLY reason I supported Essence for as long as I did was because it “supposedly” provided a platform for Black female issues. But, instead of encouraging and uplifting Sistahs, Essence became one of the largest contributors to the “I hate Black Women Movement.”

  • Janay

    There are enough white magazines that cater to white women. WHen have you seen a article in a white mag on black beauty and how to maintain It? Slim to never while black people are zealously seeking to include other races and multiculturalism in their businesses. This is why black businesses cannot keep the success because they try to include too much and then the companys original mission is obsolete. As I said a new generation of black women should start a new magazine that caters to strong cl$$y stand up fly black women. And speaks to our real issues. Now is definitely the best time to do it. We need to uplift eachother now more than ever.

    • Gymo

      I agree with you that all white companies should fire all the black employees and never hire another black person and all black companies should fire all the white employees. – Then we'll have balance????

      We all know that when a black person is hired at a white owned company all the white subscribers and clients stop supporting that company, and this is a position we can support, so why can't we be as uncivilized as those white clients.

  • Melissa

    What i do not understand is that if this were a white magazine it would be "racist", if white people had white only colleges it would be racist. If there were such a thing as WET it would be RACIST.I for one am not RACIST, because I am married to a lovely black man and we have 2 wonderful children together, yes i understand the oppression that the african amercian community has had to deal with, I know first hand what it is to go through hardship because of race, I am a Jewish woman whose family lost everything and almost everyone to the holocaust but i am not going to say that a Black man should not be part of any Jewish Business because he cant possibly do the job. Maybe this White man is more qualified than any of the other canidates that were up for the job. My point is that people should not throw in the race card at every turn. It is sickening and my children will grow up to understand that every single descision that people make towards them throughout life most likely will not be because of skin color.

    • Tia

      There are many, many magazines ran by all white or almost all white staff. How many NON-Jewish people work within the Anti-Defamation league?? The author is arguing that it is likely that this man was more qualified because he's a WHITE male. His status yields opportunity like you wouldnt believe. It's called privilege…and even being Jewish, you have it too…which is probably why you don't understand the argument.

      Being married to a black man doesn't mean you can't be racist.

      • Melissa

        You are completely correct. I am a bigot and a racist because i believe that not everything should be about race.it is RACIST to generalize one group of people. Not all Jews are tightwads, not all Blacks are lazy. I have not been "priveleged" because of my color or faith. I have struggled and been through enough in my life, but it does not have to be justified to some faceless web warrior! Regardless of what i say it will come down to race. Someone shouldnt be valued for things they have accomplished in life, only by the color of their skin. I will make sure to make that known to my children when they are old enough to understand. Thank you so much for enlightening me, I have been walking around with absolutely no sense. I should divorce my husband because i could never understand what it is like to be oppressed. Only someone with a darker skin tone could ever understand. You have opened my eyes to let me see how absolutely racist I am. Thanks Tia!

        • WIlliam

          As the Brother Minister Malcolm and Farrakhan have pointed out the so called "Jew's" have never been the friend of Black people. Last time I checked the state of Israel receives about 70 billion in aid paid for by American taxes. By the way I do not recall any Black people putting Jews into concentration camps. I do know that many many Jews made their lively hood in the slave trade, before and after reconstruction.

          As a well traveled educated brother who has studied these matters intensely, I agree that a magazine for Black women should be run by Black women. Besides this WASP society has for hundreds of years created societal and psycho-sociological conditions that still adversely affect both young Black women today. When you can still have Angelina Jolie play a Black women in 2011 it further underlines the need for a publication that understands Black women in the society and around the world.

          I assure you, you have never been oppressed as a person and would not face oppression now, I wonder what do you consider your children, white or Black, because society can and will distinguish between the two?

  • Tia

    White people DO have white magazines. The next time you pick up Vogue count how many Black women you see in those pages, how many articles even attempt to address ethnic hair, take notice of how the mention of darker skin tones are illustrated by someone like Zoe Saldana. How many Blacks did you see in the series Sex&the City even though it was filmed in one of the MOST diverse places on earth?? We could go on and on with this list.

    Hypocritical? The fact of the matter is: people want individuals who look and/or think like them to represent them. This isn't limited to race. Remember that time when people demanded that the president show his papers because they thought he wasn't American? Americans want other Americans to run their country. The entire group of officers at NOW is composed of women. We want people who subscribe to our religious beliefs and values heading our places of worship.

    I am a 27 year old, educated, very well traveled, African American woman. Absolutely NOTHING about Essence, Ebony, Jet or any other Black mag interests me or others in my social circle. They're completely irrelevant. When it comes to Black media, I'm all about the blogs (everything from Christelyn Karazin's Beyond Black & White, A Belle in Brooklyn, Clutch, The Root to VerySmartBrothas). They give me what I need and they're FREE.

  • jt5

    white ceos, should just hire whites!

  • Shonda Taylor

    Essence is out of touch clearly and is joining the ranks of other media outlets claiming to cater to black people yet are ran by white people. And please, it isn’t racist for black people to expect a black magazine to have black employees. It is our perspective we are hoping to see reflected on the pages of Essence. It is representing US! That’s racist?! Apparently there are people who do not lknow what racism means. All other cultures have their own food, language, practices and support however black people need white people to help us have our own. And on top of that other black people label blacks who fight for our voices to be heard and our perspectives to be shown as racists! This is just sad. By the way, may I suggest that the black people screaming racism pick up a book and READ about racism. I guarantee you’ll learn something.Have some pride and self respect. You don’t need white people to validate you.#wakeup

  • Wendy

    As of last year I did not renew which would be how we begin to boycott this issue don't spend your money where you are not happy!!! I agree with the writer regarding comments about black women; I hate to think of a sister with low self esteem reading some of this jargon. Everyone has some poignant points, and as far as whites and blacks being outraged at the thought of white history month, we never had resistance to it before because everytime we entered our history classed as far back as grade school and opened the history books we celebrated white history month we just wanted inclusion as to what we as a people contributed, anywho there choice is to hire whom they will my choice is to not purchase.

  • Gymo

    That's right, I think Black companies should only hire Blacks and White companies should only hire whites.

  • TellemWhyYouMadSon

    i smell a boycott!!! Why dont us black ppl do stuff like that no more?! smh

  • bloomspeak

    Essence has been out of touch for some time now, as are most publications that claim to be about "Black people." And for much of that time, and for many of these publications they are run by African Americans. So that formula does not work. Why should this magazine be relegated to a "training ground for black female magazine executives?" Constance White is a very capable leader, a Black woman with a truly global perspective and I trust her instincts here.

  • TheSoundMind

    I think a lot of black people are the biggest hypocritical racist on the planet. We piss and moan when we are excluded from white society but we quick to keep them out of our world. We have magazines that cater specifically to blacks. Black mens/womens, black planet. If whites come up with white mens/womens mag or white history month, we quick to call foul. It the ugly truth and I said it. Let’s try to embrace more instead of throwin salt.

    • Britt

      Umm, there are WHITE men and women magazines. Vogue, Cosmo, Elle, People just to name a few. Pick a new arguement, because you're agruement fails. Expecting black people to write about BLACK people is not racist hun. Black people wre not writing articles in Elle, nor are white people writing articles for Latina Magazine.

    • Curious1

      Yet you sit there and don't even acknowledge how INVISIBLE Black esp women are represented in the MILLIONS of things Whites have ONLY GEARED towards themselves or their Standards…from Fashion to Business..EXCLUDED…SO IF Blacks feel alienated from said entities..what is wrong with having something that reflects Black Faces…and Black Uniqueness…NO ONE says a day'em word about Bollywood or Puerto Rican Pride issue…latino things..to Jewish ONLY Catered Interests…How come it has to be Hypoicritical just because some Blacks do /want the same for the culture..that no way looks WHITE..all we have is WHITE this-that..they don't have to vocalize the fact…it is self evident…come on now…How INVISIBLE must BW be in this society…Can a White Boy edit or photoshop a True Black Women into the Image a Black Women wants to see..??wow

  • TheSoundMind

    I think a lot of black people are the biggest hypocritical racist on the planet. We piss and moan when we are excluded from white society but we quick to keep them out of our world. We have magazines that cater specifically to blacks. Black mens/womens, black planet. If whites come up with white mens/womens mag or white history month, we quick to call foul. It the ugly truth and I said it.

    • datdude

      Dude; try speaking for yourself.

  • Janay

    We allow a white man to run a black woman’s magazine, a Chinese man run a black woman’s hair supply store and a white people to run our economics period. Black people have to become more business savvy and protect their culture as other cultures do. Maybe it sparks a generation of stand up black women to start a better magazine that speaks to our real issues like why our standards are too low NOT too high as these magazines preach.

    • TriciaB

      And that company will also sell out when the price tag is high enough. People forget about the reasons they began something when the dolla bills start to holla.

    • Jean

      Protect their culture? And if Caucasians want to protect their culture, we are called white supremists and other worse things. Does anyone else see the hyprocisy in this?

  • HairAddict

    Sorry, but I will not be renewing..

  • RaceCard

    Black folks being racist again. Yall cried about a white woman ruining the magazine when she was hired a while ago…the magazine is still here and its still black. Now, they hire a white man to do some editing and yall are back to the same old stuff.

    Black people are so hypocritical.

    • Njozi

      Dear RaceCard,

      The magazine is not as good because detail to Black life is not being taken into consideration. The magazine is no longer really marketed to Black women. Maybe you don't care or not truly interested because the magazine never spoke to you. As a Black male it was extremely important because the magazine spoke to the female friends I have around me. Its bigger than a business.

      Lastly, Motown, Essence, Ebony and BET are just examples of companies that Blacks helped to build but then they sold out to other corporations. In the mean time, no one speaks for us.

  • Cindy

    I agree, because I overlooked it when they hired the woman, but now that they have hired the man I will not renew subscription. Plus, this goes for Ebony too since they have allowed JPMorgan Chase to buy into the company.

    • Cindy, I invite you to check out poizemagazine.com

      What is Poize?
      Poize Magazine is a uniting force that gives voice to black women worldwide. We do this by featuring the stories of women who take us through their journeys to success: highlighting the trials and tribulations they may have encountered along the way. Their success, often against all odds, has the power to inspire us to continue to achieve greatness.
      Our Vision
      Poize envisions a world in which all women of African descent are valued and celebrated for their achievements, courage, diversity, and majesty.
      Why Poize? Why Now?
      oIt is time for a magazine that deepens our appreciation of black women, a magazine that says “beauty is as beauty does,” a magazine that is a conversation among Black women, one that gives voice to the many and unites us no matter where we are.
      oPOIZE. Its name speaks to the inner beauty of black women throughout the world. It connects our journeys and celebrates our triumphs. It sheds light on our accomplishments, our spirituality, intelligence, longevity and our collective being.
      oWe women are more powerful than we acknowledge or even know. Each day we engineer global transformation no matter where we reside: in our countries, our communities and in our homes. We are the future of the world.
      oBy joining the movement, you have made a commitment to build a stronger world through the empowerment and recognition of women of African descent – this world’s untapped resource!
      What to expect from Poize
      oA magazine for black women with a global point of view that projects black women in a way that is uplifting and empowering.
      oA magazine that tells the stories of black women around the globe, whose skin is toughened by the problems they face at work, home, and in society at large.
      oA magazine that encourages our men to take pride in our intelligence, applaud our perseverance, and respect our bodies.
      oA magazine that gives you permission to expect more for yourself and your children. We do this by showing the positive effects such actions have on our communities.
      oA magazine that believes, “to whom much is given much is expected.” We celebrate women who give out of their abundance as well as those who give despite their inadequacy.