Portfolio's Joanne Lipman must be chafing at the New York Observer's flattering profile of her managing editor, Jacob Lewis. For sure, John Koblin's piece is the first positive coverage of the business magazine in a while. But almost every passage, while praising the new managing editor's calming influence on the troubled Conde Nast title, is an implied criticism of Lipman's management style.
Take this quote from Jesse Eisinger, a senior staff writer: "He's made the trains run on time in some basic, fundamental way that as a start-up we were having problems with." Later in the piece, an anonymous staffer, quite possibly Eisinger again on background, explains that Lipman brought in newspaper veterans who didn't understand that magazines required a proper mix of stories. "I don't think everyone understood that coming in here, and I think they're still learning it, but it's basic stuff for magazine people."
As for Lewis, he toes the line. But the Conde Nast veteran does that he wanted a broader job and more editorial input than he was allowed as managing editor of David Remnick's New Yorker. I'm sure there are differences in the job specification, but a deputy's role is always more interesting under a leader as weak as Lipman.
So why would Lipman cooperate with a glowing profile of Portfolio's new regime that could only show her tenure in a poor light? Maybe she doesn't have a choice. The magazine needs all the good press it can get, even at the expense of her reputation; and she can no longer command deference from Koblin's interviewees. Portfolio's power cover, showing a woman's stilletoed foot subjugated by a male business shoe, was truer than it knew.