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Culture & Artsby Fern Shen1:46 pmJun 22, 20150

Brides and grooms galore in Baltimore Magazine, none of them black

A reader angry about lack of diversity cancels her subscription, saying nearly all-white bridal insert “hit a nerve”

Above: The brides wore white – and were white except for one Asian-American – in Baltimore Magazine’s 2015 Baltimore Bride insert.

Something was missing in the glossy “Baltimore Bride” insert in the June issue of Baltimore Magazine that caused an irate Debbie Feldman Jones to cancel her subscription.

There was not a single African-American in the 32-page bridal-themed magazine-within-the-magazine. And there were almost none in the 176-page monthly magazine itself.

Feldman Jones, a Baltimore County native and city resident since 1984, said she is a longtime subscriber.

She is also, she told us, a white woman whose husband of 25 years is black, making her “perhaps. . . more aware of the patterns of segregation that still persist in Baltimore than the average white person might be.”

“A Fantasy Town”

Sending The Brew a copy of the email she fired off to the magazine, Feldman Jones told us what she was feeling when she composed it.

Baltimore Magazine portrays a city that has about 10 black people,” she wrote. “The wealthiest, most powerful – you can name them as easily as I can.”

“I don’t spend my time crusading about this,” she continued, “and I know that Baltimore Magazine isn’t alone in this practice, but that bridal issue hit a nerve, I guess.”

Here, with permission, is what Feldman Jones wrote:

Dear Baltimore Magazine management,

I am a long-time subscriber to Baltimore Magazine. Although your articles and themes are more repetitive than I would prefer (Top Docs, again? 50 favorite restaurants, again? 10 weekend getaways, again?) some of your content is quite good and I felt it was important to support our local city magazine.

Your Baltimore Bride supplement has caused me to change my mind. In a town that is majority African American, there is not a single black face in the entire magazine. What’s up with that? Blacks don’t get married? Whites don’t have black friends in their wedding parties? This can be no inadvertent oversight.

In fact, it occurs to me that what I’ve been supporting over the years is your representation, with few exceptions for an occasional prominent person of color, of a fantasy town. A quick flip through your June issue shows 176 pages that are nearly as exclusionary as the bridal supplement. (No, showing a couple of black faces among a sea of white party-goers, including Mayor SRB, doesn’t suffice.)

If you are making the assumption that your white target audience won’t notice or be offended, I am writing to disavow you of that notion. I will not be renewing my subscription.

Yours truly,
Debbie Feldman Jones

Magazine Responds

Feldman Jones sent the email to several people at the magazine and posted it as comment on the magazine’s Facebook page, where it elicited a reply the next day, Feldman Jones told The Brew.

“They defended themselves,” she said, noting that whoever replied gave examples of times when they have run articles featuring black people in past issues of the magazine.

She was confused, however, when the responder offered up “an interracial couple on page 14” of the bridal insert (“I don’t recall seeing that person in the three times I flipped through from cover to cover”), and she was not impressed when the responder pointed out that one of the weddings was of two men (“as if that was the equivalent of showing black people”).

(The “interracial couple” on page 14 is a Caucasian groom and Asian bride.)

Checking back on the Facebook page on Saturday, Feldman Jones said, she found that her comment – and the magazine’s reply – were gone.

Max Weiss, the magazine’s managing editor, told The Brew someone did reply promptly and denied that the comment and reply were deleted.

“We take this very seriously,” she said, adding that perhaps Feldman Jones just couldn’t find it on the page. (The comment and reply, from June 14, are posted to the page.)

Weiss sent us a copy of the magazine’s response:

Hi Debbie,

Thank you for your message. Baltimore Magazine has a commitment to diversity, and we believe diversity comes in many forms. Weddings included in this month’s Bride supplement were chosen based on submissions received from the community. You’ll notice a gay couple featured in the opening spread, as well as an interracial couple on page 14. From age to race to sexual orientation and religion, you’ll find many more examples of the inclusion we strive towards in our most recent Bride issue. The same can be said for Baltimore Magazine itself. In recent months, we’ve written about a program that explored the effects of poverty on inner-city children; we’ve written about lunch counter protests and school desegregation and a championship black lacrosse team; we’ve profiled black musicians, politicians, doctors, and business people. We believe that Baltimore is a vibrant, diverse city, truly one of the best in the country and we want our magazine to reflect that. We hope you will give us another chance but, if not, we thank you for being a subscriber.

Proud of Their Record

Speaking with The Brew by phone today, Weiss said she is “pretty proud of our record on diversity” pointing to the stories listed above and coverage of the “Freddie Gray protests and unrest” on the publication’s website.

As for the June issue, she said, “some months we do better than others.”

Weiss noted that, in addition to a couple of black party-goers in the snapshots of events on page 72, there is an African-American bicycle-powered ice pop-and-pie-vendor on page 169.

“I know that’s not enough,” she said.

As for the African-American-free bride’s issue, she said, “I don’t think it reflects the magazine in general.”

The annual bridal insert depends on submissions, and the editors didn’t receive many from black couples, Weiss said. She added that the few they did receive “weren’t up to the standards we have for photos and details.”

Weiss said she plans to reach out to encourage more diverse submissions for Baltimore Bride next year.

“It’s easy for us to say, ‘We just haven’t gotten any sent to us,’” she said. “We have to make a push on that. We’re going to.”

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