Whether it’s through social media, online publications or print magazines, we’re constantly consuming information. While the types of sources we can get are diverse, what we see in the media—images, content and the like—aren’t. One reason may be because the people behind these publications are not diverse enough to accurately represent our publication. That’s what Lisa Arbetter of StyleWatch is trying to change.
Together with Melissa Chessher of the magazine department and Cheryl Brody Franklin, director at Newhouse, the three women have come together to spearhead a movement that will hopefully bring diversity to the industry. The idea for an internship program geared towards underrepresented groups came about when Chessher brought a group of students to visit editorial offices in New York City, across companies such as Time Inc., Hearst, Condé Nast, Business Insider and Mashable. A student of color told Chessher that she felt discouraged after the trip because of the lack of diversity in those editorial offices. She didn’t know if she would fit into the industry.
Shortly after, Arbetter visited the Syracuse campus and had a public conversation with Chessher about the lack of diversity and diverse voices in the magazine industry.
“My staff and I are very passionate about making sure that every woman can see herself in the pages of our magazine and on our site, TheOutfit.com.” Arbetter told us. “I brought this up during a talk I gave on diversity at Syracuse. Afterward, a student asked me about diversity in the media industry itself. That’s where the idea started for me. While the media industry has improved in terms of diversity, there is always more to be done. We are lucky to work for a company that values diversity, and I knew Time Inc. would be open to starting a program.”
Interns in the program will be matched up with a mentor during their time at Time Inc. They’ll also have the opportunity to attend weekly lunches where they’ll learn more about the ins and outs of the industry, as well as a “career boot camp” to help them get a leg up. Interns will also receive a $500 stipend to assist with expenses.
While this internship is currently only open to students at Newhouse, Chessher thinks that this program will inspire diversity in both the publishing industry as well as in our society as a whole “by quite literally putting students who represent the range of American experience at the editorial table. The existence of this program signals that Time Inc. and Newhouse value this and see it as important. And, quite frankly, this is not simply a do-good effort. This is an economic proposition. Magazines, those who are in the business of creating content for this country, need to have a wide range of people at the table in order to be successful. So it is also a very important economic initiative as well.”
And it’s on the staff at these publications to make sure diversity exists at their publications.
“Editors need to make sure they are publishing voices from many different points of view,” Arbetter said. “That kind of varied storytelling provides opportunities for writers from all backgrounds and makes for a better product, which is also good business.”
Though they didn’t plan it, the implementation of this program has impeccable timing. This program will, without a doubt, be important as we enter the new presidency, which has many of diverse backgrounds anxious and fearful.
“I think making sure that all voices are heard is a step toward understanding,” Arbetter said. “We need to understand one another to work together, to communicate and to compromise.”
Franklin shares advice she has for hopeful editors and publishers: “Whenever I meet with students who want to break into the magazine industry, I tell them to meet as many people they can who are writing about topics they admire. Search for mentors and role models in the field. Then be brave and reach out to them thoughtfully for advice. Now with social media, it’s easier than ever. There are so many accomplished editors from diverse backgrounds who are vocal on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.”