Handle Your Scandal: Essence Magazine Reassigns Managing Editor Michael Bullerdick After ‘Racist’ Facebook Posts
Doesn’t it seem like controversy just follows ESSENCE Magazine? In July of 2011, the Time Inc. publication hired Michael Bullerdick as Managing Editor and the shift was almost immediately hit with backlash. Critics were bewildered because ESSENCE the brand was supposedly rooted in the mission to be a powerful voice for black woman. So why would the magazine hire a white man to manage content? Could he ever gain a true understanding of the black female experience without having lived it?
To be honest, I was never bothered by Bullerdick‘s position. Cultures can be studied and celebrated by people who aren’t necessarily entrenched in it. However, Editor-in-Chief Constance White quieted critics by maintaining that “he (Bullerdick) has no involvement in the editorial content of the black women’s publication.”
Fast forward to present day and those critics’ fears are now being realized. Bullerdick has come under fire for posting culturally insensitive content on his Facebook page.
On April 11, Bullerdick shared an illustration calling the Rev. Al Sharpton an “MSNBC Race Pimp.” The visual is especially alarming considering how vocal Sharpton has been about bringing justice to Trayvon Martin in a case which the ESSENCE brand has covered extensively. Bullerdick also used his Facebook page to paint President Obama as a radical.
Screenshots of his Facebook posts were sent to ESSENCE by Journal-isms along with this anecdote:
“Essence readers would be shocked to find that Bullerdick, who under the prodding of Time Inc became the first white male editor at the magazine last year, openly espouses extremist Right-wing views that run counter to what Essence has historically stood for.”
Constance White then responded:
“As editor-in-chief, I’m responsible for all editorial content for Essence. I hired Michael to manage the production schedule of Essence. As head of production, he does not attend editorial idea meetings, nor does he get involved in the editorial direction of the magazine.”
Still, it’s a bit disheartening that someone who could call Al Sharpton ‘the race guy’ and attack President Obama holds the second-highest position at a black woman’s magazine.
Furthermore, regardless of Bullerdick‘s personal views, when one decides to take a profession in media, public pages such as Facebook and Twitter come to represent not only that person but the company he/she works for. Thus, it’s important to keep the brand’s reputation in mind when posting. To put it simply, keep it cute or put it on mute.
Michael Bullerdick is learning this lesson the hard way. According to Mediabistro, “by mutual agreement, Michael has accepted a position in another division.” Sigh. This isn’t the magazine’s first controversy regarding race; there was an uproar and even a silent protest when white Fashion Director, Elliana Placas, was hired. Since I’ve always loved ESSENCE Magazine and truly respect and value the brand, I certainly hope this firestorm is the last.
What do you think of Michael Bullerdick’s Facebook posts, Glamazons? Should ESSENCE have taken action by demoting him? Should all companies incorporate some type of social media policy?
Love & Fashion,