Mark Golin, the new editor of Details magazine, wears Prada boots now, but he manages to make them look like he bought them at an Army-Navy store. He’s in Condé Nast all-black, but that’s a black baseball cap to cover what’s left of his hair and saggy polo shirt with the sleeves scrunched up. The editors he inherited from previous Details administrations have pretty much all left, and he’s gotten rid of many of the contributing editors that the magazine used to correspond with the celebrities.
“Some of them were rather shocked when we asked them to come up with ideas,” he said, “instead of just collecting a monthly paycheck.” He looked tired and antic–chain-smoking Marlboros in front of his open window at Condé Nast’s 4 Times Square supertower.
The window opens onto a terrace. Mr. Golin joked that he would like to decorate it with cars up on blocks and pregnant girls, you know, the kind of thing he used to see every day in Allentown, Pa., the town that was his home until four years ago.
That is not the kind of thing that more-entrenched Condé Nast editors like Anna Wintour ( Vogue ) and Graydon Carter ( Vanity Fair ) imagine when they look out their windows. Their job, as guardians of the old Condé Nast style, is to create a mood of world-weary glamour and gaiety through the magic of magazine journalism. Mr. Golin does something quite different. He’s trying to put out a funny, regular magazine for funny, regular guys all across the country. Funny and regular are not notions that have had much to do with Condé Nast.
Strangely enough, along with new Glamour editor Bonnie Fuller and incoming Mademoiselle editor Mandi Norwood, Mr. Golin is just one of three barbarians at the Condé Nast gate. Like Mr. Golin, Ms. Fuller and Ms. Norwood are refugees from the Hearst magazine empire. And at Hearst, traditional corporate virtues hold sway–things like serving readers in the heartland, achieving monstrous circulations, selling tons of ads to anyone who will pay up, even if they do look a little, you know, cheap.
Did someone bonk S.I. Newhouse Jr. on the head? It’s as if he has suddenly become aware of the fact that people actually read these precious glossy objects that his minions struggle to perfect every month … that there is money to be made.
And so … enter the Hearst Three: Ms. Fuller, the woman who replaced Helen Gurley Brown as editor of Cosmopolitan and will now try to pull off the task of making Glamour more of a service-and-sex publication (toward this end, she infamously–egads!–cut the magazine’s one-page “political” column); Ms. Norwood, of British Cosmopolitan , who is expected to make Mademoiselle more of a, uh, sex-and-service publication. And Mr. Golin, who worked under Ms. Fuller (no jokes, guys!) at Cosmopolitan .
Mr. Golin said he has had to ask Condé Nast editorial director James Truman to come down and look at the magazine. Meanwhile, he said, Mr. Newhouse laughs at his jokes! And when he wanted six new editorial pages, Steve Florio, the president of the company, came down in a couple of hours and gave them to him.
When asked for comment on Mr. Golin, Mr. Truman said in an e-mailed note: “I think Mark should speak for himself. But I like very much where he’s going.”
In many ways, the October issue of Details , is the mutant offspring of Mr. Golin’s what-guys-like instincts and the fabulousness typical of Condé Nast.
Mr. Golin is sick of writers whose egos overwhelm information. “It’s like the writer’s fact is in your face and he’s getting in the way,” he said. This from an editor at the company that put the names of writers on covers.
Mr. Golin is a rewrite man; he’s proud of his reputation of being able to make anything work–a job that was probably necessary given the kinds of writers he had to deal with at low-budget publications like the ones he worked for early in his career at Rodale Press, not to mention his most recent gig at the boys-and-beers magazine, Maxim , which was the American publishing success of the last year.
There on his desk is the new issue of Details . The new Details is funny, but the humor looks out of place in the context of the fashion and models and the rest of the usual Condé Nast trappings. The look of Details is meant to appeal to fabulous people, or at least to those who aspire to be fabulous. The problem here is that fabulous people aren’t funny. They have no reason to be. And here’s Mr. Golin, sticking in his jokes.
There are no famous writers in the new issue; he’s having some trouble finding the writers he needs and the editors who’ll do his bidding. He’s watching the editors he has closely. “You can find out a lot about a person on how they write a caption,” he said.
Editor Peter Potterfield and writer Dave Hahn, who work for a Seattle-based Web site called Mountainzone.com, have accused veteran journalist Bryan Burrough of ripping them off for an article he wrote in the September issue of Vanity Fair .
“Some of the nicest parts of his story came from Dave Hahn’s dispatches,” said Mr. Potterfield, who also serves as Mountainzone.com’s publisher.
The piece by Mr. Burrough was one those Vanity Fair articles that leaps back through the mists of time to an era when men and women were rich, witty, tragic and British. This particular Vanity Fair flashback special concerned 1920′s British adventurer George Mallory and explored the question of whether or not he was the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
Dave Hahn explored the same thing back in May and he climbed Mt. Everest to do it, in an expedition sponsored by Mountainzone.com, the BBC and Nova -WGBH. During the climb, Mr. Hahn posted his observations on the Mountainzone.com site. When he returned to Katmandu after his climb, Mr. Burrough was lying in wait at the press conference.
“He approached us about interviewing us for an article he wanted to write,” Mr. Hahn recalled. “He was very complimentary when I met him, said he enjoyed my dispatches. That was nice; I mean, I was impressed by him, finding out that he had written Barbarians at the Gate .”
Mr. Burrough does compliment Mr. Hahn’s storytelling ability in his Vanity Fair piece, mentioning the dispatches but not the name of the Web site. Nonetheless, Mr. Hahn was surprised to find several paragraphs that he felt virtually duplicated what he had written without credit. Let’s look at a Hahn dispatch and the Burrough paragraph that stemmed from it.
Mr. Hahn: “The first rib kick got me moving, and that made the little puddle of super cool condensation in my oxygen mask roll out into the opening of my down suit and find my exposed neck. That was enough to get me sitting up quick. I thanked Andy for the kick and lit the hanging stove. I’d kept my radio in a chest pocket to keep it functional against the cold, and now I fired it up as well. Conrad answered my call immediately. He and Jake and Tap were in our alternative Camp V and that tent was about 100 linear feet away on its own precariously perched ledge …”
Now to Mr. Burrough: “A sharp kick in the ribs from his tentmate, Andy Poliz, woke Dave Hahn around 3 in the morning. Half asleep, Hahn rolled over, and a trickle of super-cooled condensation inside his oxygen mask dribbled down to his exposed neck, instantly jarring him fully awake. Sitting up, he grabbed his radio microphone and hailed Conrad Anker and the others in their tent, a hundred feet away. It was time to get going.”
Vanity Fair editor Douglas Stumpf, speaking on Mr. Burrough’s behalf, chalked the similarities up to Mr. Burrough’s interview with Mr. Hahn. “People, when they give an account, they generally use the same words,” he said. “If you get a kick in the ribs, you get a kick in the ribs.”
“He definitely didn’t get it from the interview,” insisted Mr. Hahn. “The interview didn’t cover that stuff. If you read the dispatch, it’s basically there for a couple of paragraphs.” Lobbing back, Mr. Stumpf said, “People often don’t remember what they say to reporters.”
Mr. Hahn believes Mr. Burrough felt free to take what he needed from his dispatches simply because they first appeared on the Web: “I suppose that’s the way people view Internet journalism,” he said. “They probably wouldn’t do that if I had written that in a newspaper article or a magazine.”
The New York Post has a new Ray Kerrison, and his name is Rod Dreher. Mr. Dreher, now the paper’s movie reviewer, sounded happy to be changing beats. “When Ray retired, New Yorkers lost their only pro-life newspaper columnist, and now they’ll have one,” he said. Mr. Dreher will write his new column three times a week starting Oct. 20.
So who’ll be the new movie critic? Lou Lumenick, the man now serving as the Post ‘s metro editor. Mr. Lumenick used to write film reviews for The Bergen Record . “It was his first love. Being metro editor is a thankless job, so he asked to be moved,” said Post managing editor Stuart Marques.
The next Post metro editor will be John Mancini, a former deputy managing editor at the tabloid who, since 1997, has been the editor in chief of the Long Island Voice . Mr. Mancini has a reputation as a smart hard-news guy.
Follow Carl Swanson via RSS.