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8 Dynamic Black Women Editors in New Media

In a recent study released by The Women’s Media Center, a series of small, golden yellow lines, bars and wedges illustrated the underwhelming yet persistent gender disparity in major media businesses. And yet, throughout these same graphs and charts, no hues were allotted to reveal the scant presence of women of color. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, this professional paradox of the Black woman becomes all the more apparent.

Still, no pie chart is needed to highlight the dearth of this demographic within media. A simple “Black women in media” Google search does the trick. But don’t expect any definitive list naming editors, directors and pundits, because you’ll only be faced with recent stories on the negative portrayal of Black women in the media, not the pioneering minority of Black women storytellers toiling away behind the curtain.

“For a new generation, the idea of content creators for important platforms—which, of course, used to just be called ‘big-time editors’—being female is not remarkable. But it’s still worth noting that in traditional media, this was not always the case,” said Kierna Mayo, the Editorial Director of “It’s refreshing to look out onto the digital landscape of today and know that I have so many peers, brilliant sisters who are taking all they know about journalism, brand-building and Black folks and melding it all together to help shape the content that is informing and inspiring a new Black America… really a new America.”

Much like the case right here at, interesting blogs, websites and digital properties are being helmed by Black women. Even when leadership is male, women editors in the digital space have found their way to the conference room table. Selected for their professionalism, drive and entrepreneurial spirit, the eight dynamic Black women in new media featured below demonstrate the need for more inclusion far better than any colorful bar graph could.

JAMILAH KING, News Editor at Colorlines

How she landed her current position:

“I came to as a freelancer five years ago and grew into the position of news editor. It’s been an incredible experience to work with a young, dynamic team of mediamakers who are all committed to racial justice.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media:

“This industry needs the expertise of more Black women editors, because we’ve got diverse lenses on society. Readers want media that reflects their experiences, and I think that Black women are uniquely positioned to take on that task.”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“Patience—with the work and with myself. News moves so quickly these days that it’s often difficult to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. As an editor, it’s important to find a pace that works for you.”


How she landed her current position:

“I was headhunted. A few summers ago, I got a call out of the blue from a headhunter about the position of editor. I believe it took about six months until I actually started the job. Once I started, it was a wonderful opportunity to basically reimagine the news section from the ground up. My team has produced numerous long-term projects, including in-depth coverage of the 2012 presidential elections, the voting rights battles  and the Trayvon Martin tragedy.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media:

“There need to be more Black editors in media. Period. We need to be there to ensure that covers like the recent Bloomberg Businessweek embarrassment don’t happen, and to ensure that a certain knowledge and sensitivity is included in the way content is presented. In mainstream publications, we need to be there to ensure there’s a fair and more equal representation of African-Americans. I want to have fewer SMH moments when I read how Blacks are portrayed in the press. With more Black editors in the mix, we have the ability to show African-Americans as normal people, not caricatures.”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“Follow my gut, but listen to others. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but there’s always room to learn.”

JOY-ANN REID, Managing Editor of

How she landed her current position:

“I was asked to join The Grio after contributing to the site for some time.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media:

“Black women offer a unique perspective on news and issues that lends a critical voice to the conversation. So many of the issues facing this country disproportionally impact Black women—whether it’s budget cuts that reduce access to child- or healthcare, reductions in funding for nutrition programs, or regulation of access to birth control and other women’s health services. We should be in the meetings when how those issues will be covered is discussed.”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“The news cycle doesn’t care about your editorial calendar, or your deadlines.”

DENENE MILLNER, Editor-in-Chief of

How she landed her current position:

“I’m the editor-in-chief of, the premiere, award-winning parenting website I founded just over four years ago. MyBrownBaby explores the intersection of two subjects that I love to write about: parenting and race. I founded this blog back in 2008, during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, right around the time that Bristol Palin, then a teen, got pregnant with her son. I wrote a blog post that laid out the case for why the national conversation about Bristol’s pregnancy would have been woefully different had we been discussing a pregnant Sasha or Malia Obama, and teen pregnancy in the African-American community. The post was well-received by my peers and served as the impetus to continue to shed light on the parenting discussions African-American moms and dads have amongst ourselves that go ignored in mainstream parenting magazines and websites.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media:

“I don’t want to generalize and suggest that every Black woman who’s an editor thinks the same and that we operate as a monolith. But I do think that more often than not, we tend to bring a unique perspective to the table when stories are being discussed and shaped behind closed doors. I think the privilege that comes with being part of the mainstream can blind some editors to different viewpoints and opinions. And that means some media outlets just plain miss the mark when it comes to attracting and speaking to diverse audiences. When you hire Black women editors, you’re shifting that paradigm. You’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll extend your audience, because the stories will reflect a diversity of viewpoints, images and information. How can you possibly go wrong appealing to a larger, more diverse audience?”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“Opinions matter. This was hard to grasp at first, because as a writer and former magazine editor, the one rule we all lived and died by was to be objective. In the blogosphere, facts are important, of course, but so are opinions. How I feel about the news is almost as important, in some cases, as the news itself. In the context of social media, this makes all the sense in the world, and helps add a certain cachet to what I do on At first, it was hard to loosen up and be OK with it, but the more I integrated opinion and personal reflection into the site’s pieces, the more attention the site received. This is the very essence of social media: sharing the personal, the exchange of thought and ideas. Sans fear. It definitely gives me thicker skin, and makes me a bit sharper. Those are great traits to have in this space.”

DODAI STEWART, Deputy Editor of

How she landed her current position:

“As an avid reader of, when I saw a request on the site asking magazine junkies to apply for a new project, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t know it then, but the new project was Jezebel. The founder was Anna Holmes, whom I’d worked alongside at Entertainment Weekly.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media: 

“American media has long been male-dominated and white-centric. It’s important for other voices to contribute to the narrative—not just for truly objective reporting, but for purely personal and subjective storytelling, which is often the heart of an issue.”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“Learning to let go. You can’t revise, revise revise. You can’t dwell, be overprotective of your words, thin-skinned about idiotic comments. Write, edit, move on. Let go.”

DANIELLE CADET, Editor of Black Voices at The Huffington Post

How she landed her current position:

“I originally started out as an intern for a separate section of The Huffington Post, checking the careers website everyday for a job opening. I knew I wanted to work with Black Voices, so my plan was to hopefully run into a Black person and strike up conversation. I saw there was an opening for associate editor and applied for the job. The next day, a friend introduced me to the managing editor, and one thing sort of led to another. Over the course of my first year, I received more responsibility as the company grew and changed. I was eventually asked to lead the site’s daily operations and promoted to editor.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media: 

“Black women have incredibly creative minds and unique experiences that oftentimes are both underrepresented and misrepresented in media. Black female editors not only diversify the information presented in the media, they also provide a realistic and honest perspective of the challenges we face as women of color. Lately, there seems to be a fascination with stories about the Black female experience, and who better to inform that narrative than Black women themselves?”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“I’ve learned to roll with the punches and expect the unexpected, that it’s not so much what happens to you as much as how you react to the situation. I’ve been presented with some serious challenges throughout the course of my career, and my reaction to each incident has taught me a lot about myself as an individual and as an editor.”

SHERYL HUGGINS SALOMON, Managing Editor of The Root

How she landed her current position:
“I was a fan of The Root from the time it launched in 2008, as well as the work of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (our editor-in-chief) and our publisher, Donna Byrd. When I heard that my mentor and former colleague Joel Dreyfuss was joining the team as managing editor, I applied for the position of deputy, told them how I could help further their vision, and they gave me the job in February 2010. In December 2011, Dreyfuss decided to pursue his dream of writing a book about his Haitian roots, and I became managing editor.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media:

“It’s especially important now that the mainstream news media is becoming less diverse, and Black news professionals are disappearing from the industry. For instance, writer Pamela Newkirk pointed out in a Columbia Journalism Review piece that ‘between 2001 and 2011, the number of African-Americans in mainstream newspaper newsrooms plunged 34 percent,’ and that ‘African-Americans, who nationally comprise 15 percent of the US population, hold 4.68 percent of US newspaper newsroom jobs.’ But I’d say even in the online world and other media, it’s still important that our perspectives and experiences join in with those of non-Black editors and male editors to shape media coverage and public discourse. We should at least achieve parity with our representation in the population. Media portrayals of Black women would be less stereotype-driven if we did.”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“It’s important to respect a writer’s work and intentions as you work with them to shape a piece. You never want to be in the position of rewriting or misrepresenting anything.”

ANDREA PLAID, Associate Editor of Racialicious

How she landed her current position:

“I landed my current position as Associate Editor at Racialicious by moving up the ranks from guest contributor and taking on other responsibilities. In other words, the old-fashioned way. With my clientele whom I met/worked with at Racialicious and other gigs as well as recommendations from friends, I opened my side business as an editor.”

Her case for why there should be more Black women editors in media:

“I don’t think having sheer numbers of Black female editors will inherently make the wordsmith world a better place. A company can hire Black women who don’t challenge what the company publishes just as easily as hire women who do, and we’ve seen these situations play out in workplaces inside—and outside, honestly—the publishing world. I do think there needs to be the kind of Black female editors who are good at both catching misplaced commas as well as catching and correcting unchecked privileges and prejudices in material.”

Her biggest lesson thus far as an editor:

“As much as we revel in language changing, there are still basics that ground it, too. Like knowing the difference between your and you’re, and it’s and its, and there, they’re, and their. I stay amazed by how some people are as upset by your correcting those basics as much as your correcting their uses of racist/sexist/classist/ableist/homophobic/transphobic/marginalizing words and phrases… sometimes, even more so!”

Patrice Peck explores the complex intersection of culture, entertainment, race and gender as a multimedia journalist. Follow her musings at Twitter and Facebook, and visit her at for more of her work.

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