Writer Counters Defamation Lawsuit by D Magazine, Alleges “Institutionalized Racism”

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Photo via dmagazine.com

D Magazine is being labeled as “racist” by an unnamed freelance writer in Denton County according to a supplemental filing made on August 13, 2021. The filing by the writer who uses the pseudonym “Maya Pembledon” alleges that the suit filed against her for business disparagement is an attempt to silence her inquiries into racist business practices.  

The initial filing by D Magazine came after the writer contacted several advertisers in the magazine and allegedly asked questions about the business’s beliefs about racial preference in their selection by the magazine. The case is being heard in Denton County District Court as Allison Publications, LLC v Jane Doe. 

The issue appears to have begun when Pembledon decided to write an investigative article that examined the racial bias of the executive staff at D Magazine and the racial background of advertisers and featured businesses. D Magazine is a subsidiary of Allison Publications, LLC, a multifaceted publication company headed by the Allison family with a primary circulation and offices in Denton. 

Pembledon lists three “red flags” she claims are indications of institutionalized racism when examining D Magazine.  

First, she identifies that the executive staff, who are all related, appear white. Pembledon makes the claim that the executive structure appears to favor “family patronage.” Her claim is that, despite paying “lip service” to racial injustice, the make-up of the executive staff demonstrates that the journalism efforts by D Magazine are “the very definition of white privilege.”  

The second claim made by Pembledon is that the Editor in Chief Christine Allison also heads the magazine’s advertising agency. Pembledon claims this arrangement indicates that Allison has a “skewed incentive to prioritize paid advertising over editorially significant works,” leading to the paper not covering stories that are of importance to people of color.  

The third issue that Pembledon brings up in her court filing is the apparent racial background of paid sponsored content. Pembledon identified the number of white people by looking at pictures online and determined that all but one advertiser in the paid “Best of Dallas” section is white.  

The suit filed by Allison Publications, LLC alleges that Pembledon repeatedly contacted advertising businesses and actively attempted to interfere with the business relationship between the magazine and the sponsors by questioning whether the businesses were aware of racist policies at the magazine.  

“I wanted to hear directly from the white-owned businesses being featured as to whether they felt there was any bias shown by D Magazine in its choice of experts and whether they felt they were benefiting from institutionalized racism at the expense of Black and Latinx professionals who may have been more deserving of recognition,” Pembledon writes in her August 13 court filing.  

Allison Publications, LLC filed its suit on July 7, 2021, with the Denton County District Court. In the filing, the publishing company states that the writer “made false allegations in an attempt to undermine business relationships,” and falsely, maliciously, and without privilege made false assertions of fact.  

Pembledon notes in her filing that proof of her false statements was not included in the initial filing, however, the filing by Allison Publications does state that discovery of fact is upcoming. Calls to the law firms representing the parties were not returned at the time of publication.  

The case against Pembledon is scheduled for a Motion to Dismiss hearing on September 9, 2021. Allison Publications is further requesting that the court require Pembledon to use her real name in court filings or have her testimony stricken from the record.   


Note: This article was updated on October 6, 2021 at 12:25 pm.

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