Morale has always been low here, but it's never been
lower, and the downcline (to quote our Treasury
secretary) is steepening.
The only reason there's been no mass exodus is because
the pay is good, nobody else is hiring, and the
economy is at the abyss.
Many magazines develop into factions. At Portfolio,
the factions are quite lopsided. It's every last
person at the magazine versus Joanne Lipman, Amy
Stevens, and Kyle Pope. (With new managing editor
Jacob Lewis, who came over from The New Yorker,
bewildered and privately neutral, but loyal to Joanne
because that's his job.)
There's nothing new about Joanne's infuriations.
What's troublesome is that Conde Nast allows them go
on and on and on. The only thing predictable about
Joanne Lipman is that nobody has a frigging clue what
she wants. She orders up one thing and condemns the
editors for delivering it. She can't explain her story
judgment, and no one knows whether that's because she
has none, or because her mind is so internally
confused that even she doesn't know what she is
thinking from day to day or hour to hour.
Worst of all: outside of finance and advertising, she
knows squat about business, and maybe finance and
advertising too. The result is a mess of a magazine.
What's it supposed to be? If the readers don't know,
and the advertisers don't know, it's because the staff
doesn't know, and if Joanne knows she's not doing a
very good job of explaining it.
It's all too bad because Portfolio could have been so
good. "The Vanity Fair of business magazines" is an
idea that sounded great to most of us who joined up
here. But the opportunity is being pissed away.
Joanne gave a speech a week or so ago in which she
revealed that after she left her first meeting with Si
Newhouse, before she was hired, she was so happy she
could have been hit by a truck. This was interpreted
here as a plea to Si not to throw her in front of that
truck now. (Her kids must have been pleased to hear
that she regards a lunch with Si as the highlight of
People tell me that calls for Joanne's head will
ensure her continued tenure, because Si will dig in
But Si, you're a smart business person. She's wrecking
your magazine. Talk to the staff, they'll tell you.
You need to do something about it, before it's too
late for everybody.