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Hearst Magazines President Troy Young Resigns

The president of Hearst’s magazine division resigned Thursday, one day after The New York Times reported on his history of lewd, sexist remarks in the workplace.

The executive, Troy Young, was elevated to lead the magazine division in 2018 as the face of digital transformation, even though at least four employees had complained about what they viewed as bullying and harassing conduct to the human resources department or senior executives, according to four former Hearst employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

The Times reported Wednesday that Mr. Young had made suggestive comments about sex toys, emailed pornography to a senior editor and made explicit remarks to a junior employee.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Young, 52, sent an email to staff apologizing for his behavior but characterizing The Times’s report as a misrepresentation of “the culture that we have built at Hearst Magazines.” He said he was “deeply reflective on what I can learn from this moment” and was “committed to the work I need to do here.”

“I recognize that the incidents cited in the NYT article are particularly offensive to women and I want to make clear they do not represent who I am as a person nor do they reflect some of the most important relationships in my life,” he wrote in the email.

Five hours later, Hearst’s chief executive, Steven R. Swartz, emailed staff to say he and Mr. Young had agreed it was in “the best interest of all of us” that Mr. Young resign, effective immediately.

“I honestly never thought this day would happen and I have tears of relief and shock streaming down my face,” Abby Gardner, a former digital director for Cosmopolitan, posted on Twitter.

In the Times article, Michelle Ruiz, a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan, described an encounter with Mr. Young that took place before he was promoted and when she was heavily pregnant. “So, is the baby mine?” he said, as she recalled it.

“For an executive at the company to suggest that he’d impregnated me was clearly inappropriate,” said Ms. Ruiz, now a contributing editor at “There’s a real hypocrisy to elevating this man to lead a company populated with magazines that are preaching women’s empowerment on their covers.”

Current and former Hearst Magazines staff members also described a culture of discrimination that has long been ignored.

Prachi Gupta, who covered politics for the Cosmopolitan site during the 2016 presidential campaign, said she felt that Black and brown women were made to “feel less than equal” at the company.

“Because there were no women of color in leadership positions, I was not able to seek advice or counsel when I was pushed into some of the uncomfortable positions,” she told The Times.

In a June 6 Twitter post, Ms. Gupta, who is Indian-American, wrote: “From the get-go, I was tokenized. A white P.R. person at Hearst told me that it would be easy to book me for media appearances because my look was ‘very on trend,’ and it was clear she meant that I wasn’t white.”

”I’m glad to hear that Mr. Young is stepping down,” Ms. Gupta said on Thursday. “If the company is interested in fostering a better culture, this should be a starting point that includes many other structural changes throughout the organization.”

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Hearst Employees Say Troy Young Led Toxic Culture

For decades Hearst magazines have advised American women on how they should conduct themselves in the home (Good Housekeeping, Redbook), in society (Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country) and in the bedroom (Cosmopolitan).

This is the company whose stars have included Oprah Winfrey, the head of O: The Oprah Magazine, which Hearst has helped run since 2000; and Helen Gurley Brown, the groundbreaking editor who transformed the once-staid Cosmopolitan into a racy monthly that angered conservatives and feminists alike while selling big on newsstands.

But inside the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan, the Hearst Magazines leader, Troy Young, has drawn complaints from people who said he had made lewd, sexist remarks at work. And in recent weeks, inspired by the civil rights movement, current and former employees at Cosmopolitan and another Hearst women’s title, Marie Claire, have spoken out on social media and during staff meetings on what they describe as a toxic environment.

Mr. Young, a former advertising executive, joined Hearst in 2013 as its first head of digital media. He quickly changed the corporate structure so that the editors of the magazines’ websites reported to him, rather than to the editors of individual publications. As part of his plan, digital editors with relatively low salaries replaced high-priced veteran print editors.

His work impressed Steven R. Swartz, the chief executive of Hearst Communications, and Mr. Young succeeded David Carey as Hearst Magazines president in 2018, winning the job over the high-profile former editor and magazine executive Joanna Coles.

That promotion came after at least four employees had complained about what they described as Mr. Young’s bullying or harassing behavior to the human resources department or senior executives, according to four former Hearst employees who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

One incident involving Mr. Young came during a visit to the Cosmopolitan office when he was the digital head, according to two people who were present. Mr. Young picked up one of the sex toys that had been sent to the magazine and asked if he could keep it, the people said. Referring to the openings of two toys, he said he would “definitely need the bigger one,” the people said.

Mr. Young also emailed pornography to a high-level Hearst editor, Jay Fielden, according to three people with knowledge of what happened. Mr. Fielden complained to Mr. Carey, who was then the division president, the people said. Last May, Mr. Fielden left Hearst, where he had been the top editor of Esquire and Town & Country. He declined to comment for this article.

At a Cosmopolitan holiday party in 2013, Mr. Young joined a group in which a young staff member was describing a bad date with a man who complained of an ex-girlfriend’s odor. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive conversation, said Mr. Young told her that she should have inserted her fingers into herself and asked her date if he liked her smell. The woman said she was shocked by his comment and walked away.

Two Esquire staff members witnessed the incident: Nate Hopper, an assistant editor at the time, and Ben Collins, an editor who is now a reporter for NBC. Both confirmed the Cosmopolitan staff member’s recollection. “I think he violated the decency of what was otherwise a friendly conversation,” Mr. Hopper said. “It has been something that I wish I had done something about in the moment for a very long time.”

Mr. Young, 52, addressed the former Hearst employees’ complaints in a statement for this article: “Specific allegations raised by my detractors are either untrue, greatly exaggerated or taken out of context. The pace of evolving our business and the strength of my commitment is ambitious, and I sincerely regret the toll it has taken on some in our organization.”

As for the holiday party, he said in a separate statement, “Candid conversations about sex defined the Cosmo brand for decades, and those who worked there discussed it openly.” He did not address the other specific allegations.

A Hearst Magazines spokeswoman said that, during Mr. Young’s years as digital chief, his “relentless pursuit of excellence was at times combined with a brash demeanor that rubbed some the wrong way.” The spokeswoman added, “Since being named president of the division, he has worked to develop a more inclusive management style.”

Credit…Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Accessories Council

As part of the shake-up on Mr. Young’s watch, Jessica Pels became Cosmopolitan’s youngest top editor in 2018. Before that, she had run the magazine’s digital side and was the digital head of Marie Claire. During the recent weeks of protests against racism and police violence, Ms. Pels has faced staff members’ demands for action on what they described as a culture of discrimination that has long been ignored.

Ms. Pels held staff videoconferences in the wake of social media comments posted last month by Jazmin Jones, who had worked under Ms. Pels as a video editor at Marie Claire. In an Instagram post, Ms. Jones, who is Black, accused the company of racial discrimination, saying she was made to feel uncomfortable in threads that touched on race in the interoffice communications app Slack.

A screen shot of a Slack conversation posted by Ms. Jones shows an editor, who she identified as Ms. Pels, commenting disparagingly on the hair and makeup of a staff member of color during an on-camera appearance for a Marie Claire video. Ms. Pels sprinkled the Slack conversation with remarks that she was committing a human resources violation by making the complaint.

In an interview, Ms. Jones, 30, said, “Hearst doesn’t care about you if you’re not a skinny white lady.”

During a videoconference last month for the Cosmopolitan staff, a woman of color confronted Ms. Pels over being pulled into meetings she would not normally have been part of when camera crews were present. She said her inclusion was evidence of the company’s attempt to promote a false appearance of staff diversity, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Times.

Prachi Gupta, who covered politics for the Cosmopolitan site during the 2016 presidential campaign, before Ms. Pels became editor, said she felt that Black and brown women were made to “feel less than equal” at the company. “Because there were no women of color in leadership positions, I was not able to seek advice or counsel when I was pushed into some of the uncomfortable positions,” she said.

In a June 6 Twitter post, Ms. Gupta, who is Indian-American, wrote, “From the get-go, I was tokenized. A white P.R. person at Hearst told me that it would be easy to book me for media appearances because my look was ‘very on trend,’ and it was clear she meant that I wasn’t white.”


Credit…Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Ms. Jones’s and Ms. Gupta’s descriptions of their experiences were echoed by 10 former and current Hearst Magazines staff members in interviews with The Times.

In a videoconference staff meeting, Ms. Pels offered tearful apologies. “I have not done enough to correct imbalances,” she said, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Times.

In a statement for this article, Ms. Pels said diversity was a “career-long priority for me.”

“At this pivotal moment, my team and I have been making real changes and having extensive, honest and passionate discussions about the progress that needs to be made, and the work I can do as a leader to actively facilitate it,” she said in the statement.

As Cosmopolitan’s top editor, Ms. Pels has conducted interviews with Democratic presidential candidates and published an essay in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement by Senator Kamala Harris of California.

Hearst employees have questioned company leadership at a time when employees at its more glamorous rival, Condé Nast, have done the same. There have also been staff revolts at other media organizations, including The Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal and Refinery29.

Last month Hearst Magazines appointed Samira Nasr, previously Vanity Fair’s fashion director, as the top editor of the U.S. edition of Harper’s Bazaar. She is the first woman of color to hold the post. And Cosmopolitan started an initiative, “Cosmo Can Do Better,” that calls for the hiring of more Black people and people of color. As part of it, the magazine released staff statistics, saying its work force was made up of 29 percent Black people and people of color, 61 percent white employees, with 10 percent undisclosed. Its leadership comprised 21 percent people of color, the survey said. A Hearst spokeswoman said the company is committed to diversity at all levels.

Michelle Ruiz, a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan, said the messages of inclusion and empowerment from many Hearst publications were at odds with company leadership. She described an encounter with Mr. Young at the Hearst cafeteria that took place when she was heavily pregnant. “So, is the baby mine?” he said, as she recalled it.

“For an executive at the company to suggest that he’d impregnated me was clearly inappropriate,” said Ms. Ruiz, now a contributing editor at “There’s a real hypocrisy to elevating this man to lead a company populated with magazines that are preaching women’s empowerment on their covers.”

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Essence Names Interim Chief After Claim of ‘Abusive Work Culture’

An anonymous essay published on Sunday criticized Essence, the groundbreaking Black media brand, citing an “abusive work culture” in which bullying and sexual harassment were common. Since then, Essence has installed Caroline A. Wanga, a former Target executive, as its interim leader and has also pledged to hire law firms to conduct a review of workplace issues.

The essay, titled “The Truth About Essence,” was published on the digital platform Medium under the byline Black Female Anonymous, which has identified itself as a group of former and current Essence employees. The essay is part of an online campaign that includes Twitter and Instagram accounts and a petition, which has collected more than 2,000 signatures.

A target of Black Female Anonymous is Richelieu Dennis, the owner of Essence Ventures, the parent company of the magazine and Essence Communications. Mr. Dennis, the founder of Sundial Brands, a Black beauty products company, bought Essence from Time Inc. in 2018.

At the time of the purchase, Mr. Dennis, who was born and raised in Liberia, said Essence would “serve and empower women of color” under his stewardship. The anonymous essay suggested that many Essence employees believe he has not lived up to that statement.

The essay said Mr. Dennis “tried to force Essence employees and contractors to sign nondisclosure agreements” to protect him and his family from “liability or disparagement after a string of wrongful layoffs.” It also said that Mr. Dennis’s wife, Martha Dennis, whom it described as the company’s head of human resources, should not serve in that role, calling the arrangement a “blatant conflict of interest.” (An Essence spokeswoman denied that Ms. Dennis was the head of human resources, saying that she had “advised the company in its ongoing HR transition” as the company “searched for a full-time HR lead.”)

Later in the essay, the writers said the problems at Essence predated the arrival of Mr. Dennis. They faulted a previous Essence leader, Michelle Ebanks, blaming her for a “toxic culture.” Ms. Ebanks stepped down as the chief executive of Essence Communications in March, after nearly 20 years at the company, and is a member of the Essence board.

The essay also had criticism for two other Essence leaders, the chief operating officer, Joy Collins Profet, and the chief content officer, MoAna Luu.

In the Medium essay and on social media, Black Female Anonymous has called for the resignations of Ms. Profet and Ms. Luu; demanded that Ms. Ebanks leave the board; and demanded that Mr. Dennis have nothing to do with running Essence. The group has given Ms. Wanga, the interim leader, until the “close of business” on Friday to comply.

“The once exalted media brand dedicated to Black women has been hijacked by cultural and corporate greed and an unhinged abuse of power,” the writers said in the essay.

Citing “an abusive work culture,” the essay’s writers also said that Black women at the company “are systematically suppressed by pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism and classism.”

Ms. Wanga joined the company as its chief growth officer on Monday. On Tuesday — two days after the essay was posted — Mr. Dennis named her the interim chief executive.

In a statement on Thursday, Latraviette Smith-Wilson, an Essence spokeswoman, described the essay’s “accusations and demands” as “unsupported and outdated.”

The statement also addressed Ms. Ebanks, saying she “has had no role in day-to-day operations since her departure,” and said that Ms. Collins Profet “had already accepted a new role with another company before the anonymous blog was posted.”

Ms. Luu, the head of content, “will step back from day-to-day operations during the course of the review,” the statement said.

Mr. Dennis has also stepped away from the daily leadership role he had assumed since the departure of Ms. Ebanks, the company said in a separate statement. The spokeswoman added that Ms. Wanga would oversee the “independent review” of the Essence workplace.

A person who identified herself as a representative of the essay’s writers, contacted through the Black Female Anonymous Instagram account, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Long a touchstone of Black culture, Essence celebrated its 50th anniversary with its May issue, which featured the model Naomi Campbell on the cover. The magazine has a circulation of more than one million and its website attracts nearly seven million unique visitors each month. The company also runs the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans, a celebration of Black culture that has drawn headliners like Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and John Legend. (The festival was canceled this year and replaced with a digital event because of the coronavirus pandemic.)

The anonymous essay was published at a time when many other media companies have wrestled with race and discrimination against Black employees and other workers of color.

The top editor of Bon Appétit, Adam Rapoport, resigned last month after a photo of him costumed in stereotypical Puerto Rican attire resurfaced on social media. His departure was part of a larger revolt at the magazine’s parent company, Condé Nast. Similar uprisings have taken place at The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the women’s lifestyle website Refinery29.

In the essay, Black Female Anonymous tied their efforts to the larger social protest movement that has swept the country. “The demand for a new America calls for the complete accountability of all Americans, even those of us in Black America and our cultural institutions,” the writers said. “Black women deserve to feel safe both in white America and Black America.”

In a Wednesday letter to Ms. Wanga, Black Female Anonymous asked for a guarantee that Mr. Dennis would not have a role in running Essence and that the three other executives they had identified leave the company by the “close of business” on Friday. The letter, which was posted on social media, also demanded that Essence be transparent about the law firms it will hire for the planned review, adding that they must not have ties to Mr. Dennis or others in leadership roles.

In an Instagram post on Thursday, Ms. Wanga sounded optimistic about the future of Essence. “I don’t believe in losses,” she wrote. “You win and you learn. The conversations @richelieudennis and I started a few months ago about his strategic vision for @Essence and the opportunity to be on a team furthering the health/wealth of the global black diaspora, across a portfolio of businesses including @essence, was a ‘win.’ A win stitched together by a 50-year legacy of black creatives, businesses, and community that I would be honored to be a part of.”

Ms. Wanga noted that she had “learned there are things that need to be better for our team and culture — and I’m ready to begin that work,” adding, “I’m committed to flourishing while fixing and fastening what needs to work to be in service to our teams, communities and partners. So let’s GOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” She ended her statement with the hashtag “#BlackWomenRiseTogether.”

Black Female Anonymous replied to Ms. Wanga on social media. “We don’t want @Essence to fold,” the group said. “But we must fix the systemic brokenness of any Black cultural institution that devalues Black women. We’re counting on you, Caroline. Fix it or fold.”

Adenike Olanrewaju contributed reporting.

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A Reckoning at Condé Nast

This was supposed to be Condé Nast’s year.

The publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker was going to be profitable again after years of layoffs and losses.

Then advertising revenue suddenly dropped as the coronavirus pandemic cratered the economy. More recently, as protests against racism and police violence grew into a worldwide movement, company employees publicly complained about racism in the workplace and in some Condé Nast content.

In response, the two leaders of the nearly all-white executive team — the artistic director, Anna Wintour, and the chief executive, Roger Lynch — offered apologies to the staff.

At an all-hands online meeting on Friday, employees asked if Ms. Wintour, the top editor of Vogue since 1988 and the company’s editorial leader since 2013, would be leaving. Mr. Lynch and the communications chief, Danielle Carrig, shot down the question, saying Ms. Wintour was not going anywhere, said three people who attended the meeting but were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Credit…Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA, via Shutterstock

Tumult has hit Condé Nast, a company built partly on selling a glossy brand of elitism to the masses, at a time when its financial outlook is grim. Last year, the U.S. division lost approximately $100 million on about $900 million in revenue, said several people with knowledge of the company, who were not authorized to speak publicly. The European arm also had losses.

Mr. Lynch said in an interview Friday that he was “not familiar” with the cited figures, adding that the company’s merger of its domestic and international operations, part of a recent restructuring, had been costly.

In April, the company instituted pay cuts for anyone making over $100,000. Then came layoffs — 100 jobs gone out of roughly 6,000.

Condé Nast is one of many media organizations, including The New York Times, whose employees have questioned company leaders as people around the world have taken part in protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died last month in Minneapolis after a white police officer pinned him to the ground.

The company has been led by the Newhouse family since 1959. Steven Newhouse heads the parent company, Advance, and his cousin Jonathan Newhouse is chairman of Condé Nast’s board. Advance also controls more than 40 newspapers and news sites across the country. Many of them, including The Plain Dealer of Cleveland and The Star-Ledger in Newark, have struggled. The Newhouse family has protected itself against losses with significant investments in the cable giant Charter and the media conglomerate Discovery.

Before the internet took readers away from print, Condé Nast was known for thick magazines edited by cultural arbiters who traveled in the same circles as the people they covered. As digital media rose, Condé Nast was slow to adapt. Budgets tightened. Magazines including Gourmet, Mademoiselle and Details folded.

By the time Mr. Lynch, a former head of the music streaming service Pandora, succeeded Robert A. Sauerberg as the chief executive last year, Condé Nast was in triage mode. After his arrival, it unloaded three publications: Brides, Golf Digest and W.

On Monday, Condé Nast reckoned with how the company deals with issues related to race. Adam Rapoport, the longtime top editor of Bon Appétit, resigned after a photo surfaced on social media showing him in a costume that stereotypically depicted Puerto Rican dress.


Credit…Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

He apologized to staff members in a videoconference. After Mr. Rapoport left the call, the staff voiced complaints about the Bon Appétit workplace. Some minority employees said they had been used as ethnic props in Bon Appétit’s videos, a growing segment of the Condé Nast business.

“It’s so hard to be a person of color at this company,” said Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, a black woman who worked as an assistant to Mr. Rapoport. “My blood is still boiling.”

She recalled a 2018 meeting of editors to discuss how to make the magazine’s Instagram account more diverse. In a room of about eight editors, three were people of color.

“And we’re all very junior, no power,” Ms. Walker-Hartshorn said in an interview. “I was like, ‘You’re asking us how to make our Instagram black without hiring more black people?’”

At a company forum on Tuesday, Mr. Lynch said Bon Appétit employees should have raised their concerns earlier, a comment that rubbed many the wrong way. In a closed-door session later that day, he apologized to a group of staff members who had pushed for Mr. Rapoport’s ouster.

“I want you to know I take this personally, and I take personal responsibility for it,” he said, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The New York Times.

A onetime banker at Morgan Stanley, Mr. Lynch spent much of his career at Dish, the satellite TV service. As a hobby he played lead guitar in a classic-rock cover band, the Merger. He moved from San Francisco to New York and updated his wardrobe to join Condé Nast.

Mr. Lynch, 57, has emphasized diversity efforts and environmental programs in emails to the staff. He said in the interview on Friday that he was developing an overall company strategy as he assembled his executive team. In December he hired Deirdre Findlay as the chief marketing officer, making her the company’s highest-ranking black executive.


Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

His former executive assistant, Cassie Jones, who is black, quit shortly after he gave her a gift she considered insulting, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

In November, after she had spent four months working for him, Mr. Lynch called Ms. Jones into his office and handed her “The Elements of Style,” a guide to standard English usage by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Mr. Lynch said he thought she could benefit from it.

With its suggestion that her own language skills were lacking, the gift struck Ms. Jones as a microaggression, the people said. A few days later, she quit. Before leaving the headquarters at 1 World Trade in Lower Manhattan, she placed the book on his desk.

Mr. Lynch said he hadn’t meant to insult Ms. Jones, who declined to comment for this article. “I really only had the intention — like every time I’ve given it before — for it to be a helpful resource, as it has been for me,” he said. “I still use it today. I’m really sorry if she interpreted it that way.”

Before Mr. Lynch’s arrival, David Remnick, the editor in chief of The New Yorker, objected to a plan that would have lowered the magazine’s subscription price and raised ad rates. He has brought aboard a diverse crew of journalists, including Jia Tolentino, Hua Hsu and Vinson Cunningham, while adding digital subscriptions.

Three people with knowledge of the company said The New Yorker was likely to surpass Vogue as Condé Nast’s biggest contributor to U.S. profits by the end of 2020. The people added that about 80 percent of The New Yorker’s revenue came from readers, which helped the magazine weather the advertising downturn. The magazine did not cut staff during the recent layoffs.


Credit…Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

On June 4, Ms. Wintour sent an apologetic note to the Vogue staff. “I want to say this especially to the Black members of our team — I can only imagine what these days have been like,” Ms. Wintour wrote.

She added, “I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. We have made mistakes, too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”

The British-born Ms. Wintour has been credited internally for championing Radhika Jones, one of few top editors of color in the company’s history.

Ms. Jones, the former editorial director of the book department at The Times who took over Vanity Fair from Graydon Carter in 2017, changed the magazine’s identity. The first cover subject she chose, for the April 2018 issue, was the actress and producer Lena Waithe, a black woman photographed by Annie Leibovitz in a plain T-shirt. Later covers featured Michael B. Jordan, Janelle Monae and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Ms. Jones has put out 16 Vanity Fair covers featuring people of color.

When Ms. Jones arrived, she was pilloried by fashion insiders who questioned her style sense. Her choice of legwear — tights with illustrated foxes — drew stares, according to a report in Women’s Wear Daily. Ms. Wintour later showed her support for Ms. Jones at a welcome party by handing out gifts: tights with foxes on them.


Credit…Michael Kovac/Getty Images

At a quarterly meeting of company executives in April 2019, on Mr. Lynch’s second day at Condé Nast, Ms. Jones presented her plan for Vanity Fair’s fall issues, a prime landing spot for fashion and luxury advertisers. (From September to December last year, the Vanity Fair covers featured Kristen Stewart, Lupita Nyong’o, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chrissy Teigen, John Legend and their children.)

Two executives criticized Ms. Jones’s plan, according to three people who were at the meeting and were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In particular, Susan Plagemann, the chief business officer of Condé Nast’s style division, challenged Ms. Jones at length, saying the plan would be difficult to sell to advertisers. To defuse the tension, Ms. Wintour banged her fist on the table, saying, “We need to move on,” according to the three people who were at the meeting.

Ms. Plagemann, who is white, joined the company in 2010 as Vogue’s chief business officer and worked closely with Ms. Wintour; in 2018, she was elevated to her current job. Three people with knowledge of the matter said she was vocal about her negative view of Vanity Fair under its new editor.

She had criticized Ms. Jones’s choices of cover subjects, telling others at the company that the magazine should feature “more people who look like us,” two of the people said. A third person said he had heard her use words expressing a similar sentiment. All the people said they interpreted the phrase and similar remarks as referring to well-off white women who adopt an aesthetic common among the fashion set.

Through a Condé Nast spokesman, Ms. Plagemann denied making those statements and denied expressing a dim view of Ms. Jones’s Vanity Fair.

In the interview on Friday, Mr. Lynch addressed Ms. Jones’s stewardship of the magazine more broadly. “The challenge with her taking that new direction would be alienating some of the traditional Vanity Fair audience,” he said. “I really applaud what she’s done.”

The uprising at Condé Nast was overdue, some staff members said. “We’ve been asking for change for months now,” Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant editor at Bon Appétit, said in an interview.

In the Tuesday meeting with Bon Appétit staff members, Mr. Lynch said he hoped to prove a commitment to diversity with the choice of Mr. Rapoport’s replacement. Later in the call, he suggested that some staff members wanted to hurt Bon Appétit financially to bring about change, a comment that irked some in the meeting.

“It felt infantilizing, as if we were teenagers rebelling,” said Jesse Sparks, an editorial assistant.

Mr. Lynch said in the interview that he had meant to underscore the urgency of the matter. “I wanted to make sure they understood the brand they worked so hard to build was actually being harmed, and I think I even apologized to them in that meeting,” he said.

A Bon Appétit personality, Claire Saffitz, has generated over 200 million views with “Gourmet Makes,” a show in which she makes homemade versions of Twinkies and other junk food. She represents a new kind of Condé Nast, one built on a kind of rough-cut authenticity, but her popularity has drawn attention to the problem of representation.


Credit…Francesco Sapienza for The New York Times

Ms. El-Waylly, who was a regular guest on the show, said her addition to “Gourmet Makes” had been cynically motivated. “They just want me there to play the part to make it look like they have people of color on staff,” she said.

She said she was not paid for her appearances, as her white counterparts were. Condé Nast disputed that and said Ms. El-Waylly’s salary covered her video appearances.

On Wednesday, the company’s head of video, Matt Duckor, stepped down. Several employees had accused him of bias. Many people at the company are rooting for more change.

“What’s crazy is what it took for this stuff to happen,” Ms. Walker-Hartshorn said. “It took George Floyd.”

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Anna Wintour Made Condé Nast the Embodiment of Boomer Excess. Can It Change to Meet This Crisis?

The coronavirus chased the fashion industry across Europe in February, from fashion week in Milan to fashion week in Paris, where designers handed out masks and some nervous fashion editors left early.

On Saturday the 29th, the team from InStyle magazine, owned by the Meredith Corporation, decided it was too dangerous to stay. The same day, Anna Wintour convened Condé Nast’s fashion staff in a makeshift conference room at the Paris Vogue headquarters. “The message from Anna was: This is not a big deal,” one attendee recalled (though a company spokesman denied she sent that message). Her editors, some nervous about the coronavirus, didn’t dare ask to go home.

“You wouldn’t challenge Anna in a group meeting — that’s just not how our operations work,” another editor said.

Ms. Wintour, the Vogue editor since 1988 who now runs much of Condé Nast’s U.S. operation, played her usual central role in Paris — and more. She stayed, she made arch jokes about people who had fled, and her regal presence by the runways sent a signal of support to the industry. When she got back to New York, some of her competitors self-quarantined, but she went to work and her staff didn’t need to be told they were expected to show up, too. She and her lieutenants worked out of the otherwise largely empty Condé Nast offices at One World Trade Center until the mayor sent the city home. It reminded Ms. Wintour’s longtime employees of how she had stoically led them back weeks after 9/11, producing photo shoots of models with patriotic bunting on rooftops.

But the coronavirus isn’t that sort of crisis. It’s a more dismal affair, preying on older and weaker companies as well as people. The theatrical flourishes and lavish lifestyles of the great media figures of a generation — from Ms. Wintour to Donald Trump — seem ill suited to the moment. These days, even the most charismatic executives are doing Zoom calls in their sweatpants.

Paris, rather than becoming a moment when Ms. Wintour saved her two treasured industries — magazines and fashion — now looks a bit more like the last stand for her leadership style, for a personal brand larger than her company’s, and for Condé Nast’s long, legendary 20th century. The crisis is set to sweep aside the vestiges of a more luxuriant media age.

“There were trends that were already happening, some positive and some negative,” Ms. Wintour’s boss, the Condé Nast chief executive Roger Lynch, told me Friday. “And the crisis is just accelerating all those.”

The negative trends — the collapse of print and of advertising — arrived at Condé Nast in 2008, and haven’t relented since. Now they’ll hit Ms. Wintour and Vogue particularly hard. The fashion magazine is Condé’s most lucrative U.S. publication. But it is also almost entirely dependent on advertisements that Ms. Wintour, through sheer force of personality, has kept coming in from fashion houses as virtually every other print category collapsed. Clothing is now the hardest-hit sector of the devastated retail industry.

Mr. Lynch, 57, who spoke to me via Zoom from his house in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., is responding to the crisis with a mix of sharp spending cuts and some increased marketing for subscriptions as traffic swells to Condé’s newsier brands.

Still, the subscriptions to all the company’s magazines, other than The New Yorker, remain cheap, as they were when the goal was simply to pump up circulation numbers for advertisers. And nobody knows what will happen if they are forced to raise prices to compensate for lost ad revenue.

But the coronavirus crisis is clearly reordering the priorities at what the Condé chairman, Jonathan Newhouse, once referred to as “the Vogue Company.” Now its fortunes depend on whether The New Yorker — now the strongest business in the company — and Wired can keep pace with the red-hot Atlantic, and on Bon Appétit feeding and entertaining the homebound masses. Nobody is putting on a Givenchy cape anytime soon.

Mr. Lynch, the former chief of Pandora, comes from the alternate world of the tech industry. He talks passionately about corporate strategy and plays in a classic rock cover band called the Merger. He arrived in 2019 at a business still shaped by the legacy of the Newhouse family, which had turned a workaday newspaper fortune into a glamorous and glossy magazine publishing house. The company drifted through the internet age until the death of the magnate S.I. Newhouse in 2017, the same year Edmund Lee reported in The New York Times that Condé had lost $120 million.

Mr. Lynch’s hiring signaled Condé’s shift away from family passion project to a more professional era, suggesting to many observers that they will eventually sell the media company — though the family staunchly denies that. While the Newhouses still dominate the board of its parent company, Advance, they added outside directors for the first time last summer. Their billions no longer depend on Condé Nast — they have big stakes in the cable television businesses — and they have diversified further, even spending $730 million to buy the endurance sports company Ironman Group as the coronavirus shut down its events.

Mr. Lynch said today’s Condé Nast differed greatly from its outdated image.

I think most people think about Condé Nast in the context of the old Condé Nast. I mean, it’s a big magazine business, a lot of drama, a lot of excess,” he said. “That’s just not the company today.”

In reality, Mr. Lynch is scrambling to create a business model that does not yet exist, with no guarantee that there’s any way to stop the bleeding. Condé operates huge YouTube channels and considers itself the platform’s “largest premium publisher” — but the reason there aren’t many others is because those videos cost a lot to make, and often don’t earn it back. GQ China operates the biggest commercial channel on the social platform WeChat, publishing viral comics at a higher margin — but at a different kind of cost: British GQ pulled Xi Jinping off its “worst dressed” list last year for fear of giving offense.

And it is contending with broader social and generational shifts that make its culture of casual drama and cruelty seem a poor fit for the values of its unionizing, millennial work force. Ms. Wintour’s former editor-at-large André Leon Talley drew headlines last week for writing in his new memoir that she left him with “vast emotional and psychic scars,” prompting another designer to call her “santanic” in an Instagram screed. (Joseph Libonati, a Condé spokesman, said “Anna wishes Andre only the best.”)

Ms. Wintour has also been slow to adjust to changing cultural norms, playing catch-up rather than leading on everything from calling people fat to wearing fur to her friendship with Harvey Weinstein and his wife. She was said to be in line to be Hillary Clinton’s ambassador to London.

In 2017, those same cultural and economic forces resulted in the departure of the Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter after 25 years, leaving only Ms. Wintour and the New Yorker editor David Remnick from the ranks of imperial editors. (When Condé Nast promptly cut Vanity Fair’s budget by a reported $14 million after Mr. Carter’s exit, the lesson, said one Vanity Fair employee, was simple: “Protect your boomer.”)

The new editor, Radhika Jones, wrenched the publication abruptly into the politics of a new generation, away from baby boomer power structures and toward scathing pieces on surf mom influencers and Robert Kraft’s massage parlor scandal. Her bumpy transition, along with Ms. Wintour’s elevation to broader roles managing most American editors — her titles since 2019 include artistic director for the company and global content adviser — showed that the old guard wasn’t quite ready to ease its grip. And nobody has quite determined what a post-boomer-led Condé Nast looks like.

Ms. Wintour has backed Ms. Jones, and regularly drops down from her vast office to the Vanity Fair editor’s smaller windowless one. When I asked Mr. Lynch whether he’d renew Ms. Jones’s contract this summer, he demurred, saying, “Radhika works for Anna.” (Ms. Wintour said, through a spokesman, that Ms. Jones was “the right leader for the title.”)

The bigger question may be what becomes of the glossy magazines in whatever new age we are entering. Condé Nast is the defining brand of American inequality; its original slogan was “class not mass.”

Now it is entering a grim period of austerity. Editors have drawn up lists of employees they expect to lay off, and are figuring out how to relate to them in the meantime so they won’t be surprised by the call from H.R.; its more tightly run rival, Hearst, has avoided those measures. Executives have taken salary cuts — 50 percent for Mr. Lynch; 20 percent for Ms. Wintour, who has also begun a campaign, A Common Thread, aimed at helping the fashion industry with which her future, and Vogue’s, remains inextricably linked.

The only people with nothing to fear appear to be the veterans of the glory days, when senior editors were promised pensions for life equivalent to more than half of their generous salaries. Three former executives, including Mr. Carter, who now runs an upscale newsletter called Airmail from the south of France, said the company’s current woes had not affected their paychecks. Robert Gottlieb, who was fired by his good friend Si Newhouse from The New Yorker in 1992, told me the checks have been coming steadily ever since.

“I get a notification every three years or so if there’s been some inflationary upturn in my income from a person I don’t know,” he said.

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The Mystery of Teen Vogue’s Disappearing Facebook Article

On Wednesday, Teen Vogue published an article on Facebook’s efforts to safeguard political speech. It had no byline and a glowing tone.

Not long after it was posted, a line appeared, in italics, at the top of the story to signal that it was a paid advertisement: “Editor’s note: This is sponsored editorial content.”

Soon after, the “sponsored editorial content” label disappeared. And then, the article itself vanished.

Under the headline “How Facebook Is Helping Ensure the Integrity of the 2020 Election,” the lengthy Teen Vogue post included question-and-answer-style interviews with five female Facebook managers who said the platform was taking steps to avoid spreading misinformation and propaganda as another presidential election drew near. The article also included a portrait of the women.

“We’re a different company than we were in 2016,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s director of global elections, was quoted as saying. “Including when it comes to elections.”

Condé Nast, the owner of Teen Vogue, said in a statement, “We made a series of errors labeling this piece, and we apologize for any confusion this may have caused. We don’t take our audience’s trust for granted, and ultimately decided that the piece should be taken down entirely to avoid further confusion.”

A Condé Nast employee with knowledge of the arrangement, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the article had indeed been commissioned as sponsored content, meaning it was an ad.

Facebook pitched the idea for the article last year, when the social media network and the online magazine were in talks about the Teen Vogue Summit, a three-day event that took place in Los Angeles in November, with speakers including the YouTube star Liza Koshy and the film director Greta Gerwig. Facebook was a sponsor of the gathering.

“We had a paid partnership with Teen Vogue related to their women’s summit, which included sponsored content,” Facebook said in a statement. “Our team understood this story was purely editorial, but there was a misunderstanding.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and other executives at the company shared the Teen Vogue story Wednesday morning, before it went into the digital ether.

“Great Teen Vogue piece about five incredible women protecting elections on Facebook,” Ms. Sandberg wrote on her Facebook page. The post went on to plug the company’s attempts to “stop the spread of misinformation” and “fight foreign interference and voter suppression.”

Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue’s former chief content officer, was one of the article’s critics. “I am so sorry to the @TeenVogue team for whatever irresponsible sales or marketing staff pushed this article into their feed, therefore discrediting all the GOOD work they’ve been doing to educate their audience about the REAL threats posed by @Facebook in our election,” he wrote on Twitter.

As the debate about the article made Teen Vogue a trending topic on Twitter, another online critic linked to the article and posed the question, “What is this Teen Vogue?” To that, the verified Teen Vogue account replied in a tweet that was later deleted: “literally idk.”

Facebook has struggled to shore up its reputation after a three-year string of debacles related to its handling of election interference and data privacy. Lawmakers and civil rights groups have warned that the company seems unprepared to counter the disinformation campaigns that clogged social media during the last presidential campaign.

This week, a 2,500-word internal post by a Facebook executive, Andrew Bosworth, set off discord at the company. In his post, which was obtained by The New York Times, he warned against the temptation to skew the platform against President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and stood by the company’s stance on not censoring politicians’ posts.

Teen Vogue started in 2003 as a pet project of Anna Wintour, the longtime editor in chief of Vogue and Condé Nast’s artistic director. In 2017, as the magazine gained attention for adding articles on politics and social issues to its mix, Condé Nast shut down the print edition.

On Wednesday, the Teen Vogue home page included serious fare like “No to War With Iran” alongside lifestyle articles headlined “How to Tell Your Crush You Like Them” and “The Best Under $100 Bags to Shop From Coach’s Major Winter Sale.”

For now, anyone clicking on the link to Teen Vogue’s Facebook article is met with this message: “Uh-Oh. Unfortunately this page does not exist.”

Kevin Roose contributed reporting.


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