Condé Nast lifestyle unit Bon Appétit has hired Vox Media veteran Sonia Chopra as executive editor as it continues an overhaul.
The food media brand has been in a state of upheaval following charges of racial inequality and pay inequity, particularly in its video operations.
Chopra, who steered strategy and development at Vox’s Eater, will help lead editorial content at Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Healthyish and Basically. Until the search for Bon Appétit’s editor-in-chief is finalized, she will report to Anna Wintour, U.S. artistic director, editor-in-chief of Vogue U.S.
In June, Adam Rapoport departed abruptly as editor-in-chief after a photo of him in a brownface Halloween costume surfaced. Rapoport was also blamed for fostering a culture of tokenism, pay inequity and discrimination, which came to light when video contributors began going public about their roles in the company’s videos.
Matt Duckor, lifestyle video chief for Condé Nast, exited soon thereafter when several of his offensive tweets came to light. Amid the turmoil, Bon Appétit issued a remarkably candid memo to staffers conceding, among other things, that the company had been “far too white for far too long.”
Bon Appétit is described by Condé Nast as one the fastest growing brands in its portfolio. The top-rated food brand on YouTube, it has racked up more than 6 million subscribers since launching in 2017. Along with 7 million print readers, it has 10.6 million digital unique visitors, 11.8 million social followers and 141 million video views across platforms.
Condé Nast, the storied operator of magazines-turned-media-brands like the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, is being reshaped by Roger Lynch, who joined last year as CEO. The company just installed former Disney streaming exec Agnes Chu to lead its entertainment arm. In June, shortly after the top exec departures, Lynch appeared in an online presentation to ad buyers during the NewFronts, promising a more “inclusive” programming slate.
Despite the public reform effort, some video contributors say the troubles remain, particularly at the company’s “test kitchen,” the backdrop for its popular videos pumped out daily. Patterns of inequality began to get wider attention in the spring amid increasing scrutiny on media outlets as the nation was engulfed by protests against racial injustice. In separate social media posts, Priya Krishna, Rick Martinez, and Sohla El-Waylly said they will no longer appear in videos, though they will retain some editorial ties.
Contributors of color have alleged that they received unequal pay for doing work comparable to their white colleagues, and that they were marginalized within the videos themselves. In her post, Krishna called the period of discussions with company management about redress for the complaints “disappointing and insulting.” Just prior to Rapoport’s exit in June, El-Waylly had tweeted that she made numerous unpaid appearances in videos and was paid $50,000 as an editor despite her 15 years of culinary experience.
In a Business Insider article, the three contributors said the discussions with the company even after the public meltdown two months ago yielded no concrete progress on the video front. “I think they’re very risk-averse,” El-Waylly was quoted as saying. “I think that more people of color are going to be more visible in food media. That’s more of a progressive thought, but Condé is a bit conservative and risk-averse. Maybe they’ll do it in five years after someone else makes it cool.”
A spokesperson responded to the contributors’ charges with a statement. “Over the last several weeks, the video team has worked individually with each Test Kitchen contributor to address all concerns and communicate equitable compensation structures, including standardized rate cards, in many ways exceeding SAG/AFTRA standards, for freelance and editorial staff who contribute to video. As new leadership at both Condé Nast Entertainment and Bon Appétit join the team in the coming weeks, new video programming with new and returning talent will also be announced.”
Chopra said in a press release that she “can’t wait to get started” on August 24, the official start of her tenure. “I’ve been a loyal fan of the brand for years and look forward to collaborating with them to create meaningful change at this pivotal moment happening in food media,” she added.
Here is Krishna’s tweet announcing her break from the video operation:
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