Philadelphia Magazine announced Friday the hiring of Vox.com managing editor Kate Dailey as its first female top editor, and the promotion of Ernest Owens to editor at large, making him the first Black journalist to serve in that role in the magazine’s 112-year history.
The announcements come four months after Philly Mag’s last editor, Tom McGrath, stepped down saying his replacement shouldn’t be “a middle-aged white guy” like him, and following tweets from former senior editor Fabiola Cineas calling out the newsroom’s lack of diversity. McGrath joined other white media executives, including the Inquirer’s former executive editor Stan Wischnowski, in leaving their positions after protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd ignited racial reckonings in newsrooms.
“Appointing a young Black editor to a senior position, also getting a strong female in a leadership role — that shows diversity is not hard, that organizations really can change and be more reflective of the communities they serve," said Manny Smith, president of Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and managing editor at CBS Philly.
Calling diversity “crucial to good journalism,” Dailey said "it’s important to me that we cover all the communities that make up this city ... and in doing so, capture the culture and character of all Philadelphia.”
The magazine has traditionally targeted a wealthier audience, despite Philadelphia being a majority-minority city and one of the country’s poorest big cities.
Owens, 29 and openly queer, said Friday that when he started his career, people told him he would not make it in journalism because he was “unapologetically Black and outspoken." He has spent the last two years as Philly Mag’s writer at large and the three years before that as editor of G Philly, the publication’s former LGBTQ channel.
“To be at an institution like Philadelphia Magazine that has not always had the best history, and to speak unapologetically about Philadelphia in a way that would elevate my platform and others that feel unheard and unseen in this city is a humbling honor and something I will not take for granted and not take lightly,” Owens said.
Dailey, 40, is a widow and mother of two boys, ages 7 and 4. She is an Oreland native who graduated from Springfield Township High School and Pennsylvania State University, and is also an alumna of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
While at Vox.com, Dailey “built an editorial fellowship focused on identifying and training diverse talent," which was implemented across Vox Media, according to the Philly Mag story announcing her hiring. She starts on Oct. 26.
In his new position, Owens said he will advise on stories and projects and ensure they accurately reflect Philadelphia’s communities.
Philly Mag published a cover story in 2013 titled “Being White in Philly” that was widely condemned as racist. It again came under criticism in 2015 for a cover story promoted as a guide to city schools that featured a photo of students, none of whom were Black.
In announcing his resignation in June, McGrath referenced a column Owens wrote that called for white people to step aside, and for “restoring” power to Black and brown people.