Essence Founder: I’d Sell to Time Inc. Again

Edward Lewis dismissed the recently fired editor-in-chief's complaints about the parent company.

Edward Lewis Dismissive of Fired Editor’s Complaints

Edward Lewis, one of the principal founders of Essence magazine, told Journal-isms Monday that he “absolutely” would again sell the publication to Time Inc. regardless of the complaints of fired editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White and readers who support her.

“It’s very difficult for any size magazine to be standing out here alone without some other support elsewhere,” Lewis said by telephone, adding that the magazine business has faced the additional challenges of changing technology and a punishing recession since he sold Essence to Time Inc. in 2005.

However, another founder, Jonathan Blount, wrote in a message posted on the website Naturally Moi that he stands with White and that Essence had strayed from his vision.

White disclosed in this column Friday that her departure as editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, made public Feb. 8, was involuntary and the result of repeated clashes with Martha Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc. who White says sought to limit the way black women were portrayed.

“I went in there with passion and excitement and high expectations,” White told Journal-isms, referring to her 2011 hiring. “It wasn’t what I expected at all.”

However, Lewis, 72, senior adviser at Solera Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm, backed Time Inc. “To change the voice, I don’t think would make any sense. They don’t have a clue about African Americans. That’s where we came in, and where we have come in for 43 years,” the length of time Essence has published.

The proof that Time and Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., are getting it right, Lewis said, is in the magazine’s million-plus circulation and in the success of the Essence Festival, now in its 19th year.

White said she had had repeated clashes with Nelson, who is white, but Lewis said Marcia Ann Gillespie, the editor-in-chief from 1971 to 1980 who assisted in the search for editor-in-chief when White was named, “was a major consultant” for Nelson and White during her tenure. The announcement of White’s appointment also named Gillespie as special projects director.