Oprah's 'O, The Oprah Magazine' to stop printing after Hearst boss quits post sexual harassment allegations

The end of the 20-year-old journey of the print comes at a time when Hearst Magazines, with which Winfrey partnered, is facing controversies

                            Oprah's 'O, The Oprah Magazine' to stop printing after Hearst boss quits post sexual harassment allegations
(Getty Images)

‘O, The Oprah Magazine’, the monthly magazine of American icon Oprah Winfrey which was founded two decades ago, is set to conclude its print journey this December. According to a report by Business of Fashion, the staff members of the publication which was created by Winfrey, 66, and Hearst Magazines, were informed of the decision on Friday, July 24. The magazine, which is a joint venture between Oprah’s Harpo Inc. and Hearst, completed 20 years in April and is known for its coverage of the media mogul and its annual Oprah’s Favorite Things gift guide.

While the report about the fate of the printing of the famed magazine was a disappointment for many, many thought that the move came in the wake of the resignation of Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines, after being accused of sexual harassment. Hearst President and CEO Steven R Swartz said in an all-staff email on Thursday (July 23) night that Young, 52, was no longer with the company. “Troy Young and I have agreed that it is in the best interest of all of us that he resign his position as president of Hearst Magazines, effective immediately,” Swartz said in his email.

Troy Young (Getty Images)

The announcement came a day after the New York Times reported in detail Young’s “bullying or harassing” behavior which included making indecent remarks to employees and in one case, even sending pornography to an editor. Young was replaced by finance head Debi Chirichella as the interim head. Young joined the company in 2013 and became the president in 2018.

Young also sent a note to the staff members in which he said he was “sorry” for the comments he made and realized how offensive they were perceived as. He defended himself saying they did not represent the person he is. “I am sorry and I am committed to the work I need to do here,” he said in his note, a copy of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal.

Brand not going away, says Hearst

According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, when a representative of Hearst Magazines was asked about 'O', it was said that the brand was not going away but will become “more digitally centric”. “As the brand celebrates twenty years of O, The Oprah Magazine, we’re thinking about what’s next, but again the partnership and the brand are not going away,” the representative said in a statement. “This is a natural next step for the brand, which has grown to an online audience of 8 million, extending its voice and vision with video and social content. We will continue to invest in this platform as the brand grows and evolves into one that is more digitally centric.” The Reporter also cited Winfrey saying in a statement: “I'm proud of this team and what we have delivered to our readers over the past 20 years. I look forward to the next step in our evolution.”

Lucy Kaylin, editor-in-chief of ‘O, The Oprah Magazine’, said: “Twenty years ago, O, The Oprah Magazine launched as a personal growth guide to help women live their best lives. As we embark on this next chapter, we will lean into moments that are central to the brand's DNA and deepen the connection with our loyal readers.” The average paid circulation for the magazine, which always has Winfrey on the cover, was 2.2 million copies as of 2020. According to Hearst, the magazine has a print audience of 10 million. The circulation has seen a rise even in challenging times and Black subscribers make up 35 percent of its readers. The publication is only second to Essence Magazine in terms of readers’ diversity. 

Jessica Pels (Getty Images)

Hearst work culture has come under scanner

While business concerns may be a top reason for the magazine’s printing coming to an end, Hearst Magazines’ controversial work culture has also come to the fore as a result of the decision. The staffers alleged that they face discrimination and tokenism and most of the charges were centered on Jessica Pels, Cosmopolitan’s youngest top editor, who formerly was with Marie Claire (Hearst owns both Cosmopolitan and Claire). She was slammed by former staffer Jazmin Jones, who worked with Pels as a video editor at Claire, and accused the company of indulging in racial discrimination. Besides Jones who is Black, Prachi Gupta, who covered politics for Cosmopolitan during the 2016 presidential campaign before Pels became the editor, also felt that women of color were made to “feel less than equal” and she was paid less. 

The duo’s voices were echoed by many other former and current Hearst staff members before Pels gave a tearful apology to the staff members saying she has not done enough to correct imbalances.