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Fashion Roundtable: An Interview with Three Leading Black Fashion Journalists

QUESTION: WHAT DO PEOPLE WANT TO READ ABOUT?

Constance: A fashion news reporter needs to make her copy newsier. All journalists respond to news. A lot of my coverage at The New York Times came down to the question I kept asking myself: am I covering it as news or as entertainment? You need to decide.

Teri: I don't do fashion coverage at all. I don't have a dedicated space and I have to compete with everything else that is going into the paper. If you give people a good story, everyone will read it. A lot of our readers want to read about people, the personalities, how they earn their money.

Robin: The greatest compliment I can get from a reader is, "I'm not interested in fashion but that was interesting."

Teri: I know I have to break news and write provocative articles to get my pieces in. If you're a journalist, follow the money, follow the litigation, that is where the story is.

Robin: The fashion business is parochial, like junior high school. It's hard to cover it as a serious industry. They respond to negative stories as 7th graders would. Only in the past five years has it changed because the businessmen are taking over. Everyone focuses on the shows, the shows, the shows. I would say that the spin-off of the shows generates news coverage for weeks, even months.

Ernest: What has developed is that the public relations firms have a terrific amount of clout in terms of who gets access to the shows and to the designers.

Teri: Look, access or no access, if it's a public company, they have to come to the phone. They're not just talking because it's me calling. I'm from The Wall Street Journal.

Robin: The big question is "Are you profitable? If you're a public company, you can't lie."

Teri: There is lot of information out there, but a lot of fashion reporters don't know how to report.


QUESTION: HOW DO YOU GET THE NEWS?

Teri: Tom Ford tells me what he wants me to know. I go out and talk to his supplier. They tell me what I want to know.

Robin: The White House reporters who get to have three-hour sit-down certainly get a flashier story. But if you don't get that sit-down with designers there is always someone else like the business people. I would rather sit down with Bernard Arnault than with one of the designers.

Teri: I agree. You would do better with Mr.Taki (one of the founders) than with Donna herself. The story would be meaty, with substance.

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