Bon Appétit, the Condé Nast-owned food title that found itself embroiled in controversy this week, put out a lengthy statement Wednesday conceding its racially insensitive past and vowing extensive changes.
Adam Rapoport exited as Bon Appétit editor-in-chief this week after an image of him in brownface surfaced online. The outrage over the photo coincided with charges from staffers of pay inequity, especially in its burgeoning digital video operation.
The statement (read it in full below) said the photo is “horrific on its own, but also speaks to the much broader and longstanding impact of racism at these brands. We have been complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and are committed to change.”
Specific initiatives promised in the statement include resolving race-based pay disparities and hiring more freelancers of color.
“Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long,” the statement acknowledged. “As a result, the recipes, stories, and people we’ve highlighted have too often come from a white-centric viewpoint. At times we have treated non-white stories as ‘not newsworthy’ or ‘trendy.’ Other times we have appropriated, co-opted, and Columbused them.”
Many U.S. media outlets have been reckoning with newsroom diversity and their approach to coverage since nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in police custody began two weeks ago.
Rapoport was one of the editors at Condé Nast, which owns such major magazines as The New Yorker and Vogue, spearheading a pivot to platforms beyond print, especially video. Print advertising and circulation has continued to decline across the magazine industry. But with the explosion of online viewing and, more recently, streaming, lifestyle brands like Bon Appétit have been able to gain traction and develop savvy promotions on social media. Condé Nast Entertainment is slated to pitch its video slate to digital advertisers during a virtual NewFronts presentation later this month.
Here is the statement in full from Bon Appétit, which also runs the digital food brand Epicurious:
We, the staffs of Bon Appétit and Epicurious, want to address our readers, contributors, and peers in light of Adam Rapoport’s resignation as editor in chief. The deeply offensive photo circulating of Adam is horrific on its own, but also speaks to the much broader and longstanding impact of racism at these brands.
We have been complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and are committed to change. Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long. As a result, the recipes, stories, and people we’ve highlighted have too often come from a white-centric viewpoint. At times we have treated non-white stories as “not newsworthy” or “trendy.” Other times we have appropriated, co-opted, and Columbused them. While we’ve hired more people of color, we have continued to tokenize many BIPOC staffers and contributors in our videos and on our pages. Many new BIPOC hires have been in entry-level positions with little power, and we will be looking to accelerate their career advancement and pay. Black staffers have been saddled with contributing racial education to our staffs and appearing in editorial and promotional photo shoots to make our brands seem more diverse. We haven’t properly learned from or taken ownership of our mistakes. But things are going to change.
We have been seriously discussing what change can look like at BA and Epi and what we need to do to make it an inclusive, just, and equitable place. To start, that means prioritizing people of color for the editor in chief candidate pool, implementing anti-racism training for our staff, and resolving any pay inequities that are found across all departments. It means dismantling the toxic, top-down culture that has hurt many members of our staff both past and present and supporting Condé Nast’s internal investigation to hold individual offenders accountable.
Furthermore, it is our editorial mission to better acknowledge, honor, and amplify BIPOC voices. We will seek and hire more freelancers of color across all platforms and invest in those relationships for the long run. Our coverage will center, rather than patronize, the contributions of marginalized people. We will do the work of building trust with our BIPOC contributors and launch multiple columns written by BIPOC on print and digital platforms. We will overhaul our recipe development process to address issues of ownership and appropriation. We will audit previously published articles and recipes to ensure proper crediting and contextualization. We will also create research protocols to vet the subjects of our coverage; there will be zero tolerance for racism, sexism, homophobia, or harassment in any form.
This is just the start. We want to be transparent, accountable, and active as we begin to dismantle racism at our brands.