Interview: Angela Burt-Murray

Angela Burt-Murray exited her job as executive editor of Teen People to take over as editor-in-chief of Essence this July.

Angela Burt-Murray exited her job as executive editor of Teen People to take over as editor-in-chief of Essence this July.

She originally left the title in 2001 to join the staff of Honey. Having come back full-circle, Burt-Murray talks about her vision for the venerable niche magazine.

PRWeek: What do you see as the editorial mission of Essence?

Angela Burt-Murray: The core mission has always been to serve African-American women and to put their needs and interests first. That will, of course, stay the same. My challenges are finding how to deliver that type of information in a more engaging, fresh way, and determining what are the absolutely necessary things that she must get from Essence.

PRWeek: What kinds of issues make it specific to African-American women?
Burt-Murray: It's just a difference in the way we may approach things. For instance, our Work and Wealth section is very popular. I think we are probably one of the only women's service magazines that can put a money-related cover line on an issue and actually have it be a driver. So our reader is very interested in financial empowerment, but we must speak to her in a way that helps her move forward financially and not assume that she already has a bunch of financial information at her fingertips. We're a very trusted authority when it comes to financial matters, and our readers don't go to other outlets to explore financial issues. As such, we have to teach her about how to buy her first home, how to invest in real estate, how to manage her credit score, different things like that.

PRWeek: You've mentioned that you might bring some of Teen People's approaches to Essence. What do you mean by that?

Burt-Murray: It's just that Teen People, because it's part of "Big People," has a great tradition of telling the stories of ordinary people overcoming extraordinary obstacles. I think that is something that resonates with a lot of different audiences, especially for readers like ours, who like to be inspired by seeing the achievements of regular African-American women. One of the things I was also very proud of at Teen People was that it was a definitive reporter in terms of teens' attitudes on very important issues like sex, drinking, and eating disorders. I think Essence can be that definitive voice on important matters.

PRWeek: Are you thinking about more investigative or social-issue pieces?

Burt-Murray: Both. I think Essence has had an extremely rich tradition of reporting on the important topics of the day for our community. I hope we will continue to do that. We can't always trust the mainstream media to tell our stories accurately or to have the space to cover issues that we're most concerned with.

PRWeek: How have you seen the African-American female consumer change in recent years?

Burt-Murray: I think that she is definitely in a more interesting place. She is taking control of her life and wants to get the tools that are necessary for her to live a better life and create a better life for her family. She's not waiting around for anyone to do it for her; she's definitely taking control of it.

Name Angela Burt-Murray
Publication Essence
Title Editor-in-chief
Preferred contact method editors@essence.com
Website www.essence.com

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