The recent death of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee got me thinking. If Bradlee is up there in the pantheon of all-time great newspapermen, who would make it into a “Magnificent Seven” of magazine editors?
1. Jann Wenner, founder and editor-in-chief, Rolling Stone
1967, San Francisco. It’s effectively ground zero for the summer of love. Right in the thick of it was Jann Wenner, who having begged and borrowed from friends and family had raised the money to get a hip new magazine called Rolling Stone off the ground. Displaying all the classic entrepreneurial traits, he has also shown remarkable endurance and as the magazine this week celebrates its 47th birthday, he is still editor-in-chief. He has also nurtured the early careers of Hunter S. Thompson and effectively launched the careers of several legendary rock snappers. If all that wasn’t enough, he’s been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
2. Tyler Brûlé, founder and editor-in-chief, Monocle
If anyone younger embodies Wenner’s entrepreneurial zeal, passion for magazines and knowledge of a subject (in this case design and fashion), it’s Canadian publishing tyro Tyler Brûlé. Wallpaper, which he founded in 1996, did almost as much to define the design culture of the late 1990s as Wenner’s did for US culture in the 1970s. Monocle, Brûlé’s latest venture, has even more sway. Park the fact he has a logo for a name and that Monocle seems to work by breaking every known law of publishing, if you’ve worked on a launch or relaunch, regardless of sector, since 2007, it’s a racing certainty that at some point someone has suggested “doing a Monocle”. And that’s why he’s on this list.
3. Dylan Jones, editor, GQ
Having edited the UK edition of GQ since 1999, the man certainly has staying power. He also has an impressive grasp of both what his audience and his advertisers want. In footballing terms, he’s the Arsene Wenger of magazines, having been at the same club for a long period in which rival Esquire has seen several managers/editors come and go. Where the Wenger analogy breaks down is that Jones has a much fuller trophy cabinet, having walked off with so many BSME awards we’ve lost count, and an OBE.
4. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, Vogue
Another editor with longevity, Wintour has edited American Vogue since 1988. Possibly the only editor to “feature” in two films, she was the role model for the beastly boss Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, and appeared in the wonderful documentary The September Issue. With her trademark hair and sunglasses, she’s been a fixture on the global fashion scene for three decades and remains frighteningly influential, despite the rise of youth-obsessed digital channels. As her nickname, “nuclear Wintour”, suggests, she looks set to last a long time.
5. Bill Taylor and Alan Webber, founding editors, Fast Company
OK, they may admittedly not be quite in the same league as some of the others on this, but FastCompany is a personal favourite and remains an outstanding publication (in fact it’s an increasingly an outstanding suite of titles across platforms) and these two were the editorial brains responsible. Working together at Harvard Business Review in the mid 1990s, they spotted a gap, took inspiration from the Silicon valley entrepreneurs they spent so much time with and launched the new title. After exactly 19 years (it launched in November 1995) it remains at the top of its game and has stood up well as the technology and design worlds have moved on. It remains resolutely enlightening and equally great to look at.
6. Louis Rossetto, founding editor, Wired
The early 1990s saw the first real boom in new technology companies, with the excitements of what was then called The Information Superhighway. Riding in the fast lane of that highway was the newly-established Wired magazine, which captured the excitement of the new digital landscape with its edgy design and no-nonsense journalism. The magazine was the brainchild of founding editor Louis Rosetto, an Italian American with a history in slightly drier tech journalism. Like Rolling Stone before it, Wired has continued to keep in touch with the ever-shifting digital culture around it.
7. Ian Hislop, editor, Private Eye
OK, it’s less well known than Wired for its striking and bold design. But that shabbily old-fashioned layout is an essential part of the magazine. Can you imagine a glossy Private Eye full of flashy fonts and stunning infographics? Hislop has edited Private Eye since 1986 and while he’s kept true to its heritage, he has also managed to make sure it remains perfectly up to date and able to mercilessly exploit the silliness of modern life.
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