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Vanessa K. Bush – Editor in Chief, Essence

Dream jobs can be hard to come by. If The Huffington Post’s recent (and controversial) blog post on Generation Y penned by the enigmaticWait But Why is to be believed, a dream job may even be an increasingly endangered species or perhaps, even a myth. While the quest for a dream job isn’t quite seeking out a fabled unicorn, it does demand the kind of dedication evinced by one such quester, Vanessa K. Bush, recently named editor in chief of Essence as of July 2013.

Like many great quests of literature, Bush’s adventure did not begin where it ended (in journalism), but rather started in her free time from the retail industry. The Harvard University and Columbia University alumna first aimed at becoming a fashion buyer. Though, while taking writing classes at night, she realized she craved redirection.

For over a decade, Essence has been Bush’s home in the journalism world and she calls her current post “the realization of a dream.”

“I feel so very passionately about this audience,” she said. “I think Essence is so critical and extremely relevant to the lives of black women, as much today as it was in 1970 when the magazine first started. We have a strong desire and need to see ourselves reflected in media in way that honors and celebrates us. That can sometimes be very challenging.”

That very challenge was Essence’s original impetus, to offer representation in a media sorely lacking realistic images. Relating a third-party study recently conducted by Essence on images of black women in the media, Bush said “For the most part, women are still very much dissatisfied with the way we are portrayed in a majority of the media. They feel like there’s this whole invisible middle of people: community heroines, young phenomenal women, modern moms, that aren’t really seen.”

In serving the audience she holds dear, Bush plans increased digital dissemination. “Part of my vision is to make sure we’re utilizing all these avenues, maximizing them to our greatest advantage,” she asserted.

“It’s a very exciting time to be in this position and to be able to reach out to people wherever they want to engage with the brand. We have more ways to reach people than ever,” she said.

In addition to adding a Twitter handle for Essence Debates, a lunchtime conversation on prominent issues of the day, Bush sees even more room for expansion in the digital milieu. With adding a love and relationships channel and a beauty and style channel on Twitter, and pursuing expansion into Tumblr and Pinterest. “Our audience is already there, we want to make sure we’re there as well,” she explained.

Contrary to some in the journalism world, who may find new(ish) media daunting, Bush sees it as a boon for Essence’s mission.

“We all have to be more nimble in terms of how we react and respond to news, and how we think about crafting our stories. It’s a different way of thinking, and the people who can master that are the people who are going to succeed in this new space. It requires you to be constantly engaged,” she commented.

Bush recommended similar engagement and aptitude to aspiring journalists “understanding the digital space” to help educate industry veterans lacking that experience. “They will see you as a resource, and you will be able to teach them how to navigate the digital space,” she advised.

With Bush’s original quest for the dream job at its end, a new one begins: to lead Essence into the future, and continue to crusade for realism in representation. Here’s to noble quests, dream jobs, and well, unicorns.

Pitching Tips

Bush is open to receiving pitches and information via email, though offered some useful hints. She advises PR professionals to read six months to a year worth of current issues. “So many times people will pitch stories that we’ve just done,” she said.

Bush also recommended to “utilize the masthead” and target specific department editors rather than pitching her directly. “Honestly, I think the best way is to go directly to the person who’s responsible for the content you’re trying to create,” Bush explained.

Lastly, Bush offered specific details for a well-written pitch. “Make sure to not only include the idea, but what will enable you to tell this story better than anyone else? Do you have the contacts, the research, the inside track, what is it exactly? Make sure to include that, because that helps sell your idea a lot better,” she said.

Follow Essence at @ESSENCEmag and Bush at @Vanessa_KBush.

About Jason Morgan

Jason Morgan is a features writer for Cision Blog, writing spotlights on media influencers and trends, also editing daily media updates. Outside of Cision, he enjoys an unhealthy amount of TV (everything from House of Cards to Real Housewives), keeping up with pop culture (particularly comic books and video games), as well as cooking and baking.

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