We've been distracted away from monitoring Debbie Gibson's every waking moment — yes, she's still alive — long enough to get our hands on the first staff memo from newly appointed Atlantic editor James Bennet. It's not the best of news. William Langewiesche, the veteran national correspondent who reported and wrote the magazine's remarkable three-part series four years ago on the "unbuilding" of the World Trade Center, is leaving for Vanity Fair. We were all set to make a joke about how much we're looking forward to his in-depth pieces on tea parties thrown by Princess Michael of Kent, but then we got to the second paragraph of Bennet's memo. It seems Cullen Murphy, the managing editor who ably ran The Atlantic from Michael Kelly's death in April 2003 until his magazine was moved out from under him to Washington last year, will also be joining VF. He'll be a part-time editor.
This makes Bennet's memo an especially depressing one, then. It's not so much that The Atlantic won't be good anymore — we fully expect its excellence will continue. It's rather that we might have to finally start reading VF again. And who the hell has the time for that?
The full memo from Bennet — who apparently goes with both the "thanks" and the "allbest" in his signoffs — is after the jump.
To the staff:
I wish that my first message to you all were not being written with such a heavy heart. I'm sorry to report that William Langewiesche is leaving us later this spring for Vanity Fair, after delivering one more story for The Atlantic. I know he has meant a great deal to you as a colleague. Like many other longtime Atlantic readers, I have known William only by the brilliance of his writing in these pages, and I am very disappointed not to have the chance to work with him as an editor.
Starting in the fall, Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic's managing editor from 1985 to 2005, will also be joining Vanity Fair, as a part-time editor. He has kindly agreed to continue helping us for a couple more months.
The stories that William and Cullen told in The Atlantic have inspired a generation of journalists, but William's own story at the Atlantic should inspire us as well. He arrived here 15 years ago as two unsolicited pieces of a few hundred words, squibs in which Cullen recognized a largely unknown but hugely ambitious writer of great promise. We will miss both of these extraordinary men, but we will honor their record here most by finding and nurturing other great talents. This magazine is the proper home for the most deeply reported and powerfully told stories in journalism.
Thanks and allbest,