It’s a Family Affair, S.I. Newhouse Dies: The Man Behind Conde Nast, Trump’s Book + Teen Vogue

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‘Si’ Newhouse, billionaire publisher of Vogue and GQ, dies at 89

Samuel “Si” Newhouse Jr., the publishing billionaire who managed some of America’s best-known magazine titles, including Teen Vogue, Vogue, the New Yorker, GQ and Vanity Fair as head of the media empire built by his father, has died at 89.

Si was hands on in creating and dominating as chairman of Advance Publications Inc., which Forbes magazine ranked as the 40th-largest private U.S. company in 2017, with an estimated $8 billion in revenue and 25,000 employees.

Over the years, many have asked why the company did not hire people of color. Including questioning the late arrival of Teen Vogue’s then first black Beauty Director in 2013, Elaine Welteroth, who was only recently promoted to EIC in 2017 after having to share a lead title with two other men. Elaine is only the second African-American to be in this position at Condé Nast, the first being Keija Minor, who was appointed as the EIC of Brides in 2012. While EIC’s like Elaine and Keija both are opening doors for women and people of color, we have to ask is this enough. Shouldn’t ad agencies and brands work with companies that are female and black owned so that we can have more opportunities for people of color to become the next Si Newhouse? Surely some would like to generate even .0001% of the 8 billion in revenue that he helped generate.

According to Gawker, “Much has been made of Newhouse’s management style: A mercurial micro-manager of epic proportions, he is also famous for his “crushes” on pet editors, many of whom became household names under his patronage. His eye for talent may very well go down as his greatest legacy: Over three decades, he has groomed editor all-stars – Tina Brown, Graydon Carter, James Truman, and Anna Wintour—although he is equally known for his cold dismissal of underwhelming performers. With a net worth estimated at 8 billion dollars, he has made every Forbes list of Richest Americans since it began over 28 years ago, but prefers to remain out of the spotlight.” Gawker

With all of the empire’s greatness, I mean who doesn’t love the fashion forward, glossy pages of Vogue with their endless budget to be creative + dominate the mainstream media, but one has to ask, how can titles like Teen Vogue with a parent company with 8 billion in revenue and 25,000 employees fail to hire and represent people of color.

Teen Vogue recently in 2017 started to feature content that appeals to black readers including aligning themselves as activists, when in fact their boss, owner, head in charge, was someone who ostracized people of color in hiring along with his family that took over after him (they only hired one in their 100 year history before 2013,) launched Donald Trump’s first book, put him on numerous covers and micro managed the title.

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There is an interesting fact in the history of S.I Newhouse. He was responsible for Trump’s first book, which has attracted criticism from it’s ghost writer and has been stated to have contributed to Donald Trump’s election.

According to Wikipedia, “Trump was persuaded to produce the book by Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse after the May 1984 issue of Newhouse’s magazine GQ – with Trump appearing on the cover – sold well.[8][10] Schwartz was hired to work on the book, and began working with Trump in late 1985. He interviewed Trump and – with permission from him – listened in on his phone calls.” – Wikipedia

Are magazines like Teen Vogue, who are owned by privileged white males really activist publications or are they activists for profit? With magazine sales falling, titles like Teen Vogue had to quickly revamp and reshape themselves into a 4 issue per year title with a large digital presence, and with that came their placement of a black EIC (2017) and articles attacking Trump and promoting Black Lives Matter.

Can a magazine owned by a family that is friends of Donald Trump, one who is responsible for his book that is now being compared to “lipstick on a pig” by the ghostwriter, really be the same company that is now pro black? NYT states that ” The editor in chief has taken on a seemingly impossible task: reinventing the glossy magazine for a hyperempathetic generation.” ‘‘I would say,’’ Welteroth responded, ‘‘that Teen Vogue has as much right to be at the table, talking about politics, as every young woman does in America right now.’’- NYT

Doesn’t Teen Vogue and Conde Nast already have a seat at the table? You mean like a Solange “seat at the table?” Conde Nast and Teen Vogue already own a large chunk of the table. In fact, it’s marble and engraved in gold. They do not have difficulty getting advertising and their parent brand dominates the media with every luxury brand already advertising. They get invites to all of the best events, including black events, which much of the black media is ostracized from because they are devalued.

Screen Shot Facebook Ads Teen Vogue

Is it wrong to ask, are they taking the place of black media? Are advertising agencies continuing to ignore media of color while allowing Teen Vogue to continue to dominate when it comes to ad deals from ad agencies?  How far does Teen Vogue go down the activism rabbit hole? These are questions that are important in bridging the gap in female and black owned media. Women make up less than 3% of media owned and POC are far less a percentage. They have also come under controversy for using the word teen in their title when their demo is read primarily by 18-to-24-year-olds. “Teen Vogue — for rich white girls — was explicitly dedicated to fashion, less ‘‘finding a prom date’’ and more ‘‘finding a prom color palette.’’ NYT

 

According to Wikipedia, “(Trump’s) book received additional attention during Trump’s 2016 campaign for the presidency of the United States. He cited it as one of his proudest accomplishments[5] and his second-favorite book after the Bible.[6] Schwartz expressed regrets about his involvement and he and the book’s publisher, Howard Kaminsky, asserted that Trump had played no role in the actual writing of the book. Trump has given conflicting accounts on the question of authorship.[4]“- Wikipedia

Donald Trump and SI Newhouse attend a Trump book party at Trump Tower…

Donald Trump and SI Newhouse attend a Trump book party at Trump Tower December 1987 in New York City. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images

Trump’s ghostwriter told The New Yorker, ““I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”- The New Yorker

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Anna Wintour came under fire in January of this year, stating that in a recent interview with The Business of Fashion that she has no qualms about putting the first lady on the cover.

Wintour also said “that she doesn’t see the point in whining about the fact that Donald Trump won.” “she has ‘respect’ for first daughter Ivanka” and “the reality of the matter is that Trump is now president, and the position demands respect.” – Daily Mail UK 

Wintour then went on to speak about the meeting she and Condé Nast editors had with Trump, shortly after he was elected.

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Anna Wintour still governs Teen Vogue. The ties to Si Newhouse and his family who tightly run Conde Nast shouldn’t be ignored when they are featuring black culture for profit, yet black executives are scarce and black media ownership is on the decline. According to Fortune, “Black men and women account for a mere 4.7% of executive team members in the Fortune 100 (the top 100 U.S. companies by revenue), a share that hasn’t budged since the survey was first conducted in 2011. Even at smaller companies, African Americans hold an estimated 6.7% of the nation’s 16.2 million “management” jobs, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though they make up twice that share of the population at large.”

So we are asking, as we see Americans in Puerto Rico suffering 9 days later and mirroring the catastrophe we saw with Hurricane Katrina due to a lack of White House response to people of color in need, what side of the table does Conde Nast really stand on?