Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Unbearable Whiteness of Magazining

The Corsair is a freelance writer now, but that was not always the case. In a previous incarnation -- in our fiesty mid 20s -- we had ambitions at editing one of the New York glossies. Unfortunately, those entry portals never opened, despite our best efforts at getting in the door. Lizzie Ratner in the salmon-colored weekly does a timely piece on people of color in the magazine industry, or, to be more accurate, the astonishing lack.

Some backstory: The Corsair started as an intern The Nation in 1995. At the time, most of the interns were people of color (2 Asian, 2 African-American, 2 White). There are not enough superlatives to heap on The Nation, which was a wonderful internship. I followed up at New York Magazine, where I factchecked for the remainder of 1995. But afterwards, trying to get an entry position in the magazine industry was -- how does one put it? -- difficult. And one would think that with experience at The Nation and New York, something by the way of an Editorial Assistant position might have been offered. Lord knows I applied to enough venues, especially with the free postage privileges at The Nation. Interviewing at Conde Nast -- even with Christopher Hitchens as a solid reference -- was a total bust. The interview, which seemed to go ducky, ended, weeks later, with a form-letter rejection. And, afterwards, it seemed like entry into the world of editorships was, quite frankly, impenetrable.

Granted, it is a tough nut to crack, this universe of New York glossies; but -- especially in the case of Conde Nast -- we felt the chilly brush off. We eventually landed at Paper Magazine, then the now-defunct Silicon Alley Reporter, then as editor-in-chief at consumer magazine MacDirectory, and, years later, after a stint as Contributing Editor of the dearly departed Razor Magazine, at present, freelancoviching and blogging. Is it because The Corsair is African-American? Has that played a factor in my lack of editorial connectedness?

I'd say no; I am hard-wired to be an optimist, and not to fall back on the race card. That sort of reasoning always struck me as "victimy." Still, this article is intriguing:

"At Cond� Nast, the premier magazine empire, the fleet of 29 top editors includes just one person of color. �'The magazine industry is probably the least diverse of any of the media. They�ve taken a real pass,' said Pamela Newkirk, a professor at New York University�s Department of Journalism and author of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media. 'As I say that, I can just hear all the people trying to shake the trees to tell you they have all this diversity�and then start mentioning people in the mailroom. But no, I�ve been in too many of these places, and I know firsthand that they are just not diverse.'"

More here. Also: FishbowlNY' s Rachel Sklar, our favorite Canadian, does an excellent follow up here.

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