As a young girl growing up on the south side of Chicago,
Black says it wasn’t her plan to become the president of
a magazine company. She did, however, realize she had a
certain knack for presentation skills and selling. “If there’s
such a thing as a ‘sales gene,’ I was definitely born with it,”
says Black, recounting her successful neighborhood enter-
prises as a youth selling lemonade and newspapers.
When she graduated from Trinity College in Washing-
ton, DC, she headed to New York City to work as an ad-
vertising sales assistant for Holiday magazine, followed by
sales rep positions at Travel+Leisure magazine and New
According to Black, as her account list grew so did her
on-the-job training. “I learned on the fly, making lots of
mistakes and more than once inserting my foot firmly
in my mouth, but with every sales call and deal made, I
gained more confidence. I really like sales and knew I was
good at it, and after six years spent learning the ropes, I
felt ready for a new challenge.”
That was a profound decision for Black, who was then
hired as the advertising manager for a new launch, Ms.
magazine, co-founded by feminist movement pioneer, Glo-
ria Steinem. For the savvy saleswoman, Ms., unlike any
Speaking of Success:
A Basic Black Guide to
the Circle of Life
Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, a division
of the Hearst Corp., will share her secrets and strategies for success in work and in life at the NSA National
Convention in New York City, which will be held Aug.
2– , 200 . She’ll hit the career highs—and “teachable
moments”—of her phenomenal publishing career and
show how a full circle of life makes us more productive,
effective and joyous. For more information and to register, visit www.mynsa.org/newyork.
woman’s magazine at the time, was a tough sell to adver-
tisers but an experience that is one of the most memorable
periods in her life.
She left Ms. for a short stint in San Francisco to work
on a start-up magazine created by film director Francis
Ford Coppola. The publication folded after six months,
so Black returned to NYC and continued to work for Ms.
for a few years. In 1979, she made publishing history as
the first woman publisher of New York, a weekly con-
In 1983, Black became the president and eventual
publisher of Gannett-owned USA Today, the first na-
tional newspaper in the country, where for eight years
she built the small upstart into one of the most widely
read daily papers in the country. After she left Gannett,
she led the Newspaper Association of America as presi-
dent and CEO for five years before joining Hearst.
Basic Black is full of simple suggestions on how to ac-
complish that, from “black and white” tips such as inter-
view dos and don’ts, to making your boss look good and
going with your gut. Her personal case studies of the me-
dia business and beyond serve as teachable lessons about
the right and wrong way to get what you want. She also
emphasizes fundamental concepts like developing pow-
er, passion and drive as key elements for balanced living.
“Drive is the most important trait to
have if you want to succeed at work and
life,” she says. Perhaps the most basic
thread (and one that leads to a catchy
book title) is the author’s dress-for-suc-
cess offering: “When in doubt, wear
black. You can’t go wrong with black.”
That fashionable advice could also be a work-life metaphor
that conveys Black’s straightforward, no-nonsense style.
Yet, the woman dubbed “The First Lady of American
Magazines” who is known for her exuberant, down-to-earth
manner, hasn’t always made such great first impressions.
Early in her career, Black realized her approach—and
self-described “brusque” personality—needed a make-
over. She made significant changes by learning to embrace
“I knew I was perceived as bossy—in fact, I knew
I was bossy—and that people were unhappy.
But I never expected they’d demand I quit.”
What to Wear, What Not to Say
No matter where people are in their work-life stage or
who they are, Black recommends living in a way that
best suits the individual. “Have your all—not everyone
else’s,” she says.
Consorting here with Oprah Winfrey and
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
Black led the creation of o, The oprah Magazine.