All posturing aside, the magazine industry by and large remains a “Caucasians-only” club where black faces in key decision-making roles are few and far between. Although mainstream magazines are slowly targeting more editorial content toward an African American readership, a 1995 survey by Folio magazine documented a significant lack of ethnic diversity within the industry itself. Folio, which monitors the content and practices of other magazines, surveyed 211 titles across a broad range of categories and found that more than 70% of those surveyed had no minority staffers. And, less than 13% of the 1,169 editors surveyed were minorities.
All of which makes the recent announcement by the Magazine Publishers of America — that Edward Lewis, CEO of Essence Communications Inc., a BE 100s company, would be assuming the chair of the industry’s highest organization — much more significant. The MPA, a consumer magazine trade association, represents more than 700 magazines across the country. Lewis will be the first African American chair in the organization’s 78-year history.
“The appointment is a recognition of companies like Essence and BLACK ENTERPRISE that we are important contributors to the growth and prosperity of the magazine industry,” says Lewis. “It also sends a signal that our society is becoming more diverse, and the magazine industry must do the same.”
Lewis will have his hands full as MPA chair for one year. “We have a very serious problem with retail sales and the consolidation taking place among wholesalers,” he says. “We are always mindful of postal matters because so much of our cost goes to postage, and we want to pay the lowest cost possible.” Another item on his agenda is the cost of paper. “For the last several years, paper prices have been relatively stable but we’ve been seeing a slight increase of late, so that’s something that we have to be aware of.”
PHOTO (COLOR): Edward Lewis