Longtime New York Observer editor-in-chief Peter Kaplan's 15-year tenure ended yesterday; last night, Jesse Oxfeld compiled a great, 2,000 word piece of quotes and anecdotes on Kaplan, which Daily Intel ran. It is, as one commenter noted, perfect. My three favorite quotes, after the jump:
Graydon Carter, who was the founding editor at the Observer, noted that Kaplan lasted far longer than he thought he would: "I think it's one of his great accomplishments that he managed more than a dozen years with Arthur (Carter)...My version was the black-and-white sketch of what he did, but he gave it color and vibrancy that I never got a chance to."
New York Times rich people reporter Alex Kuczynski couldn't get an in at the place for a while: "'I was like 23 or 24, and I kept sending these blind pitches to the masthead, signing them Alex Kuczynski. And, finally, after a year, Peter apparently stands up in a meeting and says, "Somebody call this guy Kuczynski.'" He also put a little bit of juju on Kucznski's tenure at the Times: "When I left for the Times, he kept smacking his forehead. "Alex! Alex! Alex! You're making a huge mistake!" He has this habit of smacking his forehead. "You'll never write in the first person. You'll never write about yourself. You'll never write with color. You'll never use any interesting language. Or at least I highly doubt it."
Finally, former Observer senior editor and (as of recently, former) Rolling Stone deputy editor Jason Gay remembers one of Kaplan's more distinct skills: "His gift for headlines is unmatched. Do you remember the piece George Gurley wrote about Ann Coulter, where she joked about Timothy McVeigh neglecting to bomb the Times? Peter stared at the screen for hours trying to come up with the exact right line. We'd settled on a pretty lame headline, but at the last minute, Peter's face looked like it was about to explode. "COULTERGEIST!" he said."
Kaplan's on his way to Conde Nast Traveler, where his first day as creative director is Monday. He served as a mentor to many a New York reporter, "many of whom now populate the city's more remunerative newsrooms," writes Oxfeld, and it's true - even current Gawker managing editor Gabriel Snyder is among them. Snyder's tribute to Kaplan's legacy on this site is here, Oxfeld's piece is here. Both are must-reads for New York Media junkies.
Kaplan - who oversaw the Observer's flimsy entry into the Internet Age - is inevitably going to have to work with Traveler's digital strategy; he claimed in the aforementioned Snyder post that he's excited about this, but really, you gotta wonder what's in it for him other than a steady paycheck, and more time with his family (the original reason he gave for leaving the Observer before speculation arose that owner and heir-about-town Jared Kusher pushed him out). That could well be enough for Kaplan, who nobody's ever accused of being lazy or phoning it in. He's worked for a long, long time, and he's probably tired. But for a guy who spends that kind of time in the newsroom, reporting on a world he loved as much as he influenced and covered, isn't he going to get restless? Kaplan's story in New York's media timeline, and his reach on it, can't quite be over yet. Not like this, anyway.
Peter Kaplan at the Observer: An Oral History [Daily Intel]