Time Survivors Rage At Jet-Setting Editor

Time's international editor Michael Elliott is an up-and-comer, second only to U.S. editor Rich Stengel at the magazine. But leading an iron-fisted gutting of global editions made him bitter enemies.

Elliott "spends much of his life jetting between New York (where he lives), London (from where he edits the Europe-Middle East-Africa edition) and Hong Kong (from where he edits the Asia edition)," according to a 2007 profile in the UK Independent.

That sort of travel can be taxing. But it brings career advantages. And according to one tipster, Elliott revels in it. "He likes to be everywhere at once," a plainly disgruntled staffer wrote.

And Elliott purportedly will travel only in business class. This produced, it is claimed, a 2008 Elliott travel expenditure of $250,000 — "about two-and-a-half [full-] time journalists" in the eyes of a rank-and-filer.

It is a measure of the anger among Time staff that business-class travel could produce such resentment. The magazine's layoffs have fallen especially hard on its international editions, and Elliott has been given hatchet duty. In November, amid the layoffs, one angry staffer described Elliott to us as the "international editor who has managed to bamboozle [Time Inc. Editor In Chief] John Huey into thinking he knows what he is doing."

Another tipster, the same one upset about Elliott's travel, wrote, "now he gets to be tallest dwarf in the room."

It's not hard to imagine Elliott fitting snugly into the future of the magazine. In press interviews, he has repeatedly made it known that he is the only journalist who has served as an executive at Time, Newsweek and the Economist, the three major international newsmagazines. The Economist was Elliott's starting point and, as it turns out, Stengel's model for the cheaper, more opinionated future of Time.

But Elliott's resume can' t insulate him from ridicule among the proud journalists at Time. The editor did not get his start in media; he was a lecturer at the London School of Economics and a would-be management consultant when he was lured to the Economist, which contains as much viewpoint as news. He also tried his hand as television host for ITV. "He has never been a proper reporter," writes our disgruntled tipster.

Sour grapes, sure. But relevant; if Elliott wants to show he can lead an organization racked by cutbacks, this is precisely the sort of anger he'll need to overcome. It will take more than high-handed gag orders. The fast-tracked jet-setter might just have to slow down.