Ebony and Jet publisher Johnson Publishing announced yesterday that Desirée Rogers, who resigned last February as the President Obama’s social secretary, will be taking over the company as chief executive.
The first African-American to hold the title of social secretary at the White House, Ms. Rogers was also first to bring an MBA, let alone one from Harvard, to the job. “One of the things that is particularly important for this administration is that we continue along this vein of making it everyone’s America. We are inviting all of America and all of the world to share in that splendor,” she told The New York Times after President Obama’s election in November 2008.
One year later in November 2009, an oversight at a White House state dinner for the prime minister of India lead to a breach by no fewer than two party-crashers. Republicans in congress wanted Ms. Rogers to testify on Capitol Hill after the lapse, but the White House protected her, citing “separation of powers.” Ms. Rogers’ submitted her resignation the following February. Many accused Ms. Rogers of enjoying the celebrity of the the White House too much — The Times compared her to Icarus — but she insisted that the attention and power that came with her role in the administration didn’t change her.
During her year at the White House, Ms. Rogers made it onto the cover of the summer edition Wall Street Journal‘s glossy insert WSJ., and she also posed for Vogue. A writer for the magazine asked Ms. Rogers if she would invite celebrities to the White House. “Of course,” she said. “Why not? They’re people too. Remember, we are inclusive. We want everybody.”
At Christmas time, Ms. Rogers invited Observer columnist Simon Doonan to decorate the White House. Andrew Breitbart was upset about this. It came to be known as Tinselgate. Mr. Doonan wrote:
The responsibility! The gravitas! The White House! What would happen if I screwed it all up? What would happen if it all turned out looking all horrid and naff? What would happen if some self-appointed Web luminary blogged about some infinitesimally small aspect of my holiday décor, thereby setting off of a gruesome and hostile Internet fatwa? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Ms. Rogers’ new job has quite a different feel. Johnson Publishing is the largest African-American owned-and-operated publishing company, and Ms. Rogers will oversee day-to-day operations. She told Memo Pad yesterday that the company isn’t ready to pounce on the iPad yet. They have other, more basic work to do first. “We are not yet on the iPad and everyone wants to know the glitzy and sexy things like that,” she said, “but we need to get back to the level of where we were in the heyday.”
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