Monday, July 09, 2007

Shakeup at Business Week

Big shakeup at my alma mater! The New York Times reports today that Business Week has a new No. 2 editor, Ellen Pollock of the Wall Street Journal. She is the first among equals of the "executive editors" at BW, a new class of über-editors serving under the editor in chief, Steve Adler.

I think this appointment is interesting for two reasons:

First it seems to be an admission that the magazine needs new direction from the top, and that major editorial changes are required to boost ad revenues.

Despite the hype that surrounded Adler's arrival, the magazine under his leadership has been hardly a major improvement over the old regime of Steve Shepard. The magazine rarely wins major awards, and has been shut out of the National Magazine Awards since the change in top editors.

In the past I've expressed concern about some of the changes at the magazine, such as the near-disappearance of investigative reporting, the hiring of "celebrity" columnists like Jack Welch and the firing of its longtime labor editor.

As I've noted before (such as here), BW has always tended to approach controversial subjects with a caution that has sometimes resembled timidity, and that seems to have gotten worse under the new regime, or so I hear.

It's also interesting that this change happened at all.

In the past, top editors were rarely replaced, no matter how ill-suited to their jobs. However, the downside is that under Steve Adler there are simply more top editors -- a swollen bureaucracy that seems out of place at a magazine with a shrunken staff and news hole.

I've always wondered why the trend in newspapers and magazines seems to be more bureaucracy, more editors sitting around chatting with each other, even as staffs are trimmed.

UPDATE: Almost on cue, BW announced a further expansion of its upper masthead, via elevation of a new assistant managing editor "for features."

“I’m convinced that a features editor . . . will elevate our game in a manner that will help our writers shine and better serve our readers,” Steve Adler said in an announcement.

Funny, but when I was at BW all editors were supposed to "help writers shine." So this seems kind of, well, odd. If BW's ever-expanding masthead of upper-level editors aren't "helping writers shine," what is the point of expanding the masthead still further?

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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