The January issue of Fortune's international edition features a story about Amazon's concerted push into India, a valuable market that's notoriously difficult to gain an economic foothold in.
The piece, titled "Amazon Invades India," delves into the company's plan to work around Indian law that prevents foreign businesses from selling directly to the Indian public. As compelling a read as the article was, many people got stuck on the magazine's cover, which features an illustration of Jeff Bezos made out to resemble Vishnu, one of the three Trimurti central to Hinduism.
To some, the illustration, drawn by artist Nigel Buchanan, left much to be desired.
Stripe CEO Patrick Collison pointed out that Fortune wasn't the only business publication that juxtaposed imagery of successful CEOs with religious figures. In 2010, The Economist ran a cover featuring Steve Jobs as Moses presenting his holy tablet, an iPad.
Between the image and the headline of the article, entrepreneur and blogger Anil Dash explained, Fortune appeared not to have picked up on the heavy imperialist overtones.
"Thing is, I don't care about some 'sacrilege.' What I detest is the evidence that no PoC at Fortune has enough power to stop this idiocy," Dash tweeted. "Also, many Indian people (like my dad) were born under colonial rule. So a headline discussing a corporate 'invasion' is probably not ideal."
To his credit, Fortune Editor-In-Chief Alan Murray apologized for having approved a cover that caused so much offense, but the question still remained as to how exactly something like this happens.
The most logical answer is simple: nobody raised any concerns about the cover or the copy throughout the editorial process. In Dash's opinion, though, the lack of concern was reflective of a deeper problem: a lack of diversity in the newsroom.
Diversity in the media landscape is a longstanding issue that older magazines and even younger, digital-first publications who champion diversity struggle to maintain. Dash says that including more voices of color is exactly what's needed to keep this sort of thing from happening again.
"The first step is having a really broad set of people in the room, with enough of the underrepresented folks having authority to say 'this is an issue,'" Dash told me via Twitter DM. "Until then, simply having an editorial review process that asks 'would I do this if it were about me?' would help a lot."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this piece misidentified Vishnu as Shiva. The post has been updated for accuracy.