By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"At one point, Vibe was deemed never to be big enough to fit within the Time Inc. system," says Burnett, who also worked at Vibe. "Maybe they have learned from that lesson." And then some. A Time Inc. spokesman was recently quoted in Advertising Age asserting that the company's long-term goal would be ownership of Essence Communications. Stay tuned.
Since Vanguarde Media, his joint venture with Keith Clinkscales, went under last November, Burnett has stayed busy. His most recent project is Uptown, a city magazine for upscale refined Harlemites. The first issue's cover hails "the return of the gentleman" and positions Fonzworth Bentley as pitchman and cover boy. "We live in the most diverse city in the country and there's not one magazine that targets the African American audience," says Burnett. "A magazine grounded in the ethos of what Harlem is all about would provide us with a chance for success."
Burnett sees Uptown as the flagship in an armada of magazines about affluent black neighborhoods. He says his model is Jason Binn, publisher of the magazines Gotham, Hamptons, and Los Angeles Confidential. Lofty ambitions indeed, given that the dust is just now settling from Vanguarde's demise. The first issue of Uptown is long on breathy profiles of all the touchstones for Harlem's black bourgeoisieThe Den, Sette Panni, Utopia. But it lacks an original voice, and that powerful ethos Burnett invokes feels only vaguely rendered.
Don't expect any of that to slow Burnett down. Later this year, Burnett says, he's launching Mynt, a shopping magazine for black boys distributed through a partnership with the kicks merchant Dr. Jay's. Then in 2005 he plans to launch Bronzeville, slated to be the official bible of Chicago buppiedom. "The key to publishing, now more than ever, is that your magazine be urgent to the consumer," says Burnett. It takes an urgent publisher to know that.