Maybe they should call it White People magazine.
The recently axed lone black editor of People says she was discriminated against by her boss, and that the popular magazine is biased against African-Americans in general.
People is “a discriminatory organization run entirely by white people who intentionally focus the magazine on stories involving white people and white celebrities,” Tatsha Robertson’s bombshell lawsuit says.
The 48-year-old Robertson, “the only Black Senior Editor the magazine has ever had,” was laid off in May, according to the suit.
She says only five of the mag’s 110 employees were black, and that now-former executive editor Betsy Gleick treated her like a second class-citizen when she came to the magazine from another Time Inc. publication, Essence, in 2010.
"You need to talk like everyone else here. You’re not at Essence anymore," Gleick is quoted in the suit as saying.
She says Gleick left her out of important meetings, and denigrated her attempts to do more stories on black people. Robertson said when she pitched a story about an African-American model who’d been killed, Gleick told her the victim looked like a “slut” and the magazine wasn’t interested.
“You know the rule — white suburban women in distress,” she said, according to the suit. She also allegedly said the magazine was only interested in stories involving “white, middle-class suburbia.”
Gleick, 51, followed Robertson out the door in June.
She did not return a call for comment Wednesday.
A spokesperson for People said, “People declines to comment.”
When the magazine does put black people on its cover, they’re held to a different standard, the suit says. Although People “put Trayvon Martin on its cover, Ms. Gleick was completely obsessed with attempting to unearth any potential negative fact about him before doing so,” the suit says. “Ms. Gleick repeatedly questioned whether he was a ‘good kid,’ yet never made efforts to vet white victims of crime.”
Cover stories on African-Americans were a rarity — the suit says a “black individual was the main feature” on the cover “exactly twice” in 2013, when the magazine put out 60 issues.
"In total since 2010, only 14 out of 265 covers have been focused on African-American individuals," the suit says.
And since 1990, “only three individuals selected as the ‘Most Beautiful Person’ have been black, out of 25 selections.”
Robertson’s lawyer, David Gottlieb of Wigdor LLP, said, “The media has a responsibility to report and act with integrity. People Magazine has betrayed that responsibility by engaging in discrimination, both in its pages and through its employment practices.”
The suit says that with Robertson gone, “One can only imagine that it will be ‘business as usual’ at People Magazine going forward — more white people on covers, more stories about white people, and a completely dismissive attitude towards African-American employees.”
The suit seeks unspecified money damages from People, Time Inc. and Gleick.