Print courses fill a need

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Publishing is meeting the ethnic advancement issue head on.

Vaughn P. Benjamin, VP-workforce diversity at the Magazine Publishers Association, is responsible for the multicultural programs designed to cultivate the talents of mid-career professionals as well as attract new talent to the industry.

One program, the "Publishing Management Course," "was developed to encourage the enrichment and advancement of under-represented groups in the magazine profession," Mr. Benjamin says. "This weeklong course is designed to expose professionals to current trends in the entire publishing process, including areas such as advertising, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and editorial."

Melanie L. Boulden says she benefited tremendously by participating in the course.

Two years ago, Ms. Boulden had just completed her MBA when Meredith Interactive Media hired her as manager of publishing development. One year later, she was already on track for a promotion when she signed up for the publishing course.

Ms. Boulden, now director of marketing and business development for Meredith Interactive, says she learned a lot about areas of publishing beyond her own department.

"We had to develop a magazine idea from concept to implementation: from [profit and loss] analysis to editorial mission to circulation to marketing," says Ms. Boulden. "It gave me an understanding of the [publishing] process, how the [Audit Bureau of Circulations] works and how ancillary business can enhance a magazine."

DIVERSITY A MUST

She says she thinks the course serves a need.

"The trend in every aspect in American life is going toward greater cultural and ethnic diversity," Ms. Boulden says. "If publishers are going to expand their base while expanding opportunities for advertisers, [diversity] is a must."

Angelo Ragaza, another publishing management program participant, says his frustration at the lack of ethnic journalists at general-market publications ultimately led him to start his own magazine. The opportunity to develop his business came out of his participation in the MPA publishing course.

Mr. Ragaza, a Filipino and a former editor in chief of A. Magazine, says he was able to find free-lance work with Newsweek, Vibe, Vogue and The Village Voice, but he continued to be discouraged by the lack of minorities in publishing -- especially Asians.

"Maybe I was naive, but I was shocked. I wrote a personal essay in

Newsweek in February 1999 about how I would go to [industry] conferences and feel I was not in America. It didn't look like the America I knew because it was so homogeneous," Mr. Ragaza says. "It was empowering to see people in the industry who cared about diversity" at the publishing course. "For them to take time out of their busy schedules was impressive."

He founded Angel Island Media last year in New York and says he will test Elements, an English-language fashion title, in the New York Asian-American market this September.

He credits the MPA with showing him the business side of publishing.

NETWORKING CONTINUES

Mr. Ragaza says he is still in touch with many of the presenters from his MPA course, including Ed Lewis, CEO of Essence.

While MPA is offering programs to aid industry retention, it is trying to woo minority college students. MPA's "Diversity Employment Initiative," a program to bring students into the field, is funded in part by a $250,000 grant from Reader's Digest Foundation.

To facilitate the search procedure, MPA hired executive search company Wesley, Brown & Bartle to develop a pool of potential job candidates over the next five years. The database of candidates can be tapped by member publications.

Finding new blood is more important than recycling the same people, Tom Bartle, president of WB&B says.

One of the issues surrounding the hiring of diverse talent is the problem of publications cherry-picking experienced employees from their competitors, Mr. Bartle says.

Al Schreiber, who is known in the industry for his efforts on behalf of multicultural marketing while at New York-based True North Communications' New America Strategies Group, has moved into the recruiting field by taking on the role of president of Wesley's Diversity Business Imperatives unit.

Mr. Schreiber says his unit works with corporations on diversity readiness and aims to help push the magazine industry forward.

HANDLE ON STRATEGIES

"For companies to be effective business partners with the new America, they must be ready to relate better to a new customer base to get a better handle on strategies and new products," Mr. Schreiber says. "Successful publications will represent the people they serve. People of color not only spend money but they influence others. My 10-year-old son wears `rap' clothes and has diverse friends.

"There was a time that businesses thought appealing to minorities would turn off the white audience. But now one is well-advised to be hip and cool and embrace multiculturalism."

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