“My job is to make you not leave the site,” Abby West said.
West has made a career out of looking forward. The 41-year-old Executive Editor at Essence.com understands how fast digital news travels and has made it her job to report news first.
“What’s true today is not true a year from now,” West said.
When Essence was first published forty-five years ago, it was the only publication aimed at black women. At Essence.com, West has worked to transform the brand from the magazine that celebrates black women in the 1970s to a mainstream online publication fit for the digital age.
West never imagined herself in online journalism.
“I never thought this would be my career,” she said.
A self-proclaimed “newspaper girl,” West dreamed of being a columnist and credits a Dow Jones internship opportunity with opening her up to the field of journalism. With this newfound passion, West attended NYU before ultimately graduating from Queens College with a degree in political science and a minor in journalism.
West’s journalism career began with the Norwich Bulletin, a “boot camp” that allowed for her to learn the ins and outs of reporting. She soon moved to the Stamford Advocate where she worked long, hectic hours, before deciding to take time off to care for her young children, Warden and Sydney.
West wasn’t built for the stay-at-home lifestyle. She ran journalism workshops for local New York high schools and eventually returned to the professional world with EW.com after having worked at People, Teen People and Stamford Advocate.
“EW.com was my happy place. It was filled with pop culture geeks like myself,” she said.
In charge of TV show recaps, West received stories from her writers between the hours of midnight and 3 AM and had to edit and publish them online. This job gave more flexibility, allowing her to work from home and spend more time with her children. At EW.com, West chose to pursue a career as an editor.
“I took editor track instead of writer,” she said.
While at EW.com, West developed a site within the EW.com brand. The experience of launching her own pop culture site, eventually brought her to Essence.com, where she used her pop culture background and refocused it toward the demographic of Essence.
While West continues to look ahead at the next ways to improve Essence.com, she’s not looking ahead in her career. Even though there’s always something new to look forward to, she’s living in the present at Essence.com.