African-American Chosen as Editor at Brides
Condé Nast Publications has made history. Last month, the media company appointed Keija (pronounced “Kee-yah”) Minor as its new editor in chief of Brides, making her the first African-American woman to lead one of their 18 consumer magazines in the 103 years of the company’s existence.
“Keija wasn’t selected because of the color of her skin, she was picked because she is the right editor for the job at the right time,” said Thomas Wallace, editorial director at Condé Nast. “She knows the magazine, her staff, and more importantly, she has the will to succeed.”
Ms. Minor was Brides’ executive editor, and her appointment comes after the former editor in chief, Anne Fulenwider, moved to Marie Claire. Ms. Minor, a Howard University School of Law graduate, says she stepped out on a leap of faith and ended her four-year career in corporate law before becoming editor in chief of Gotham magazine in 2005, and then editor in chief of Uptown magazine in 2008. “I’m thankful I had enough courage in my 20s to take an 85 percent pay cut,” Ms. Minor said.
Taking risks is also one of the fundamental tenets of Amy DuBois Barnett’s philosophy. Ms. Barnett, former managing editor of Teen People, became the first African-American woman in the country to head a mainstream consumer magazine at Time Inc. in 2003. Four years later, she became the deputy editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar and is now the editor in chief of Ebony magazine. She applauded Condé Nast’s appointment of Ms. Minor. “Magazines are supposed to be reflective of society at large,” Ms. Barnett said. “I don’t think you can have a mainstream magazine right now that doesn’t address a diverse demographic.”
Making history might also make for good business: African-Americans are a significant portion of print readership. According to research from a 2011 survey of the American Consumer by GfK MRI, 92 percent of African-American adults out of the 25,167 surveyed are magazine readers. The report also stated that African-Americans read an average of 15.1 issues a month, compared with 10.4 issues a month for all adults. Brides currently has 5.1 million readers, and 38 percent of its audience is non-white, according to Ms. Minor. “I think as our audiences have become more diverse, there’s a certain logic to our staff becoming more diverse,” said Mr. Wallace. He also said that Condé Nast is a decentralized company that gives its editors in chief freedom to run their magazines as they see fit.
Ms. Minor’s most difficult task? Ms. Barnett said she believes the biggest challenge that black female editors face in the mainstream media world is the incorrect perception of the narrowness of the African-American perspective. “Many mainstream media executives may not be aware of the breadth of what African-Americans are interested in right now,” she said.
Ms. Minor agreed with Ms. Barnett’s sentiment that minority editors shouldn’t be tokenized, but said she believes the largest challenge top editors face is the lack of mentors at the top. “There aren’t a ton of women at this level, and especially black women,” said Ms. Minor, who is taking over a wedding glossy that is more than 78 years old. She said that she is fortunate to have Jill Bright, chief administrative officer for Condé Nast, “but I hear all the time that journalists don’t have a lot of women mentors they can use as a blueprint.”
Race and challenges aside, Ms. Minor says she is determined to put her best foot forward and celebrate one of the best times in her professional life. She was instrumental in developing the redesign of Brides.com in April, but now as editor in chief she plans to reach readers on every platform and continue to roll out enhancements to the site. Brides — available digitally for the iPad, 7-inch tablets and through the Brides Wedding Genius App — will also begin a social network component next month featuring live wedding streams on Facebook in partnership with Zuckerberg Media.
“For me, it’s about being the best editor I can be,” Ms. Minor said. “And give readers inspirational and accessible ideas they can act on through media.”
(Tags: African American, Media, Business)