It's not just "Best of" week at New York. There's also a remarkably detailed report on Time magazine from Joe Hagan. If it's news to you that Time is in trouble you might want to read the whole thing; if not, we've distilled it to make note of the internecine power struggles and personal agendas that occasionally make a story like this worth reading. After the jump, your pre-chewed profile.
- New managing editor Richard Stengel was brought into the Time family years ago by his predecessor, Jim Kelly. Jim Kelly can still remember when Time was relevant in the lives of the American people.
- Lots of famous names got their start at Time: Walter Isaacson, Graydon Carter, Kurt Andersen, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, etc. Kelly, Stengel, and Isaacson had a beach house in the Hamptons way back then, and it was populated by up-and-comers like Michiko Kakutani and Alessandra Stanley! Also Larry O'Donnell! It was like some kind of print-age version of the Dave Zinczenko/Dan Abrams Pussy Palace.
- When Kelly became managing editor he kind of stiffed Stengel, even though (or perhaps because) Time Inc. honcho John Huey was a fan.
- John Huey likes bourbon, swearing, and firing top editors. As soon as he became Time Inc. editor-in-chief, he canned Kelly's ass. His list of potential successors included former Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent, columnist Joe Klein, Fortune's Eric Pooley, Newsweek's Jon Meacham, Slate's Jacob Weisberg, and Tina Brown, who, in our favorite "news nugget" in the piece, "volunteered herself for the job." Also, Joe Klein? Seriously?
- Stengel auditioned for the gig with a three-item (this is what PowerPoint has done to the world) list that compared Time to other media. (Time's assets, unsurprisingly: knowledge, clarity, authority.) Stengel, having come up in the Time culture, proved to be the safe choice, and - bonus - a "fuck you" to Kelly.
- When layoff time came, Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore held all the cards, since Huey had no natural allies left. He bent over and took it.
- Ad sales started to die off when people realized that no one actually read the magazine. What could the organization do? Well, everyone was talking about this web thing, maybe they could do something with that!
- Nobody knows what the fuck they're doing at Time. Stengel wants to be The Economist, but Huey doesn't; Huey wants to dumb down enough until readers will pick the book up again, Stengel is unsure. Apart from a redesign and amped-up web content there seems to be no strategy at all apart from "throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks."
- Choosing YOU as Person of the Year was a remarkably stupid decision.
Hope that helped!
The Time of Their Lives [NYM]