Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Elliott Wilson, XXL Editor for 9 Years, Shown the Door

Elliott Wilson, editor of XXL magazine, which claims to be the largest in the hip-hop world, was fired on Monday, Jonathan Rheingold, the magazine's executive publisher, confirmed on Tuesday.

"An editor was terminated," Rheingold said, pleading that he could not elaborate. The magazine is owned by Harris Publications, which also publishes the black men's magazine King in addition to outdoor periodicals such as Sportsman's Bowhunting, and a craft magazine, Quilt.

The firing of Wilson, editor since 1999, was reported on hip-hop Web sites on Monday, attributed to "sources." wrote that one of the reasons for the firing "'is that Harris Publications wants the magazine to go in a different direction in terms of expanding its scope,' a source at XXL Magazine told"

"Vanessa Satten has been named interim editor-in-chief of the magazine, which was founded in 1997 by former Source staffers James Bernard, Robert Marriott and Reginald Dennis," Roman Wolfe wrote.

Wilson, who turns 37 on Monday, could not be reached for comment. In 2005, he married Danyel Smith, who is now editor in chief of Vibe magazine. "They met back when she was Vibe's freshly appointed music editor and he was a freelance writer," the New York Observer wrote then.

"Wilson began his career as a freelance journalist, writing for independent rap publications. Along with Sacha Jenkins, Brent Rollins, Gabriel Alvarez and Chairman Mao, Wilson started Ego Trip magazine in 1994. He joined The Source in 1996," wrote.

"Wilson, also known as 'YN,' became popular for his bombastic editorials and claims of making XXL the top-ranked hip-hop magazine," Kenny Rodriguez noted Tuesday on

XXL was founded to compete with the Source, the first popular hip-hop magazine, and proved more viable as the Source encountered financial and legal problems. For the six months ending June 30, 2007, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported XXL with a circulation of 286,300. Vibe far outstrips it, selling 863,283 copies, but is considered more than a hip-hop magazine, Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi journalism department chairman known as "Mr. Magazine," told Journal-isms.

To some, XXL glorifies the basest elements of hip-hop. The New York Times' Brent Staples went after it in a 2003 op-ed piece in which he cited XXL's "The Jail Issue," which "trumpets 'exclusive interviews' with 'hip-hop's incarcerated soldiers.'"

But if readers have complaints, according to comments on the hip-hop sites, it's that the magazine is too successful — there are too many ads.

A 2005 editorial signed by Wilson begins, "You know what, I love the rain. Actually, I love the reign. That's me on top of the rap journalism game for six years straight. Let me tell you how it feels to be on top of the world. Fuck that, I've just begun like Jimmy Castor. You can pray to the Pastor. I curse all y'all like Ma$e. Read it and weep — there's no end in sight. This one's dedicated to you inferior fucks and jealous bitches who envy me. To the anonymous assholes hunched over your keyboards writing erroneous shit to get a rise out of YN: You're beneath me. You wanna know why I ain't gotta answer niggas? 'Cause I truly understand these niggas — sneak dissin' haters who want to get put on. You just want my autograph on your copy of ego trip's Book of Rap Lists or, better yet, on an XXL contract. . . ."

Husni said the hip-hop magazine market remains vibrant, pointing to the success of Hip-Hop Weekly, launched a year ago by ousted Source co-founders Dave Mays and Raymond "Benzino" Scott, who are planning another publication to debut Jan. 26, to be called "Monsta."


Black Cartoonists Plan Comics-Page Protest

"At least eight African-American cartoonists plan to take part in a Feb. 10 comics-page action to draw attention to the way their strips are perceived and purchased," Dave Astor reported Tuesday for Editor & Publisher, and journalists can support the cartoonists by taking more of an interest in the process by which comics are selected, one of the cartoonists, Darrin Bell, who draws "Candorville," told Journal-isms.


"Many editors and readers consider different 'black comics' to be interchangeable," Bell said in the E&P story, which is one reason why many papers run only one or two comics by African Americans and other creators of color. But, Bell said, comics by black cartoonists are obviously as different from each other as comics by white cartoonists are different from each other.

"'Some are political, some are about friends, and some are about family,' noted Bell, who organized the Feb. 10 action along with 'Watch Your Head' cartoonist Cory Thomas," Astor wrote.

Bell said the cartoonists had reached out to Asian and Latino cartoonists but did not get a response. But any cartoonist is welcome to join the effort, he said. He said it was no coincidence that papers such as the Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News carry more than two comics by African Americans. Shirley Carswell, an assistant managing editor for administration at the Post, is African American; the Mercury News "has a pretty diverse committee" selecting the comics, he said.

Journalists can volunteer for such committees and alert editors who make the selections to the cartoonists' concerns, he said.

"For the action, the cartoonists will all do a version of one of Thomas' comics. The theme and writing in each strip will be similar, though "we're all plugging in our own characters," Bell said in the E&P story. "The idea is to satirically protest the erroneous notion of many editors and readers that comics by African-American creators are interchangeable." Bell may be contacted at this e-mail address.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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