Dan Peres stepped to the podium at the Columbia Journalism School on Thursday night and said, “I’ve had a difficult day, but I’m going to do my best to snap out of it.”
The Details editor didn’t offer too many, well, details, leading some to wonder if perhaps his magazine might be going the way of Condé Nast siblings Domino or Men’s Vogue—after all, it was only one day after its competitor Best Life folded. Had some new calamity befallen 4 Times Square taking another glossy—and all those jobs—with it?
Hadn’t these j-schoolers suffered enough?
In fact, Mr. Peres did all he could to buoy the crowd’s spirit. He called a neighbor in Westchester an “asshole” after the man wondered aloud why anyone would pay j-school tuition. (See: Is It Time to Move to the Suburbs?) “We’ll be around a lot longer than his investment bank will,” said Mr. Peres.
Mr. Peres also talked about how blogs might kill newspapers, but they won’t kill magazines, and he claimed mobile devices like the Kindle pose “more of an immediate threat to book-publishing.” (See: The Playboys of Tech.)
Of particular interest to the students, Mr. Peres shared some of his own travails finding a job after he graduated NYU in 1993. After being rejected by nearly every media outlet in the city—including Details—Mr. Peres was hired by DNR (a November Condé Nast casualty) as—wait for it—Associate Knitwear Editor. “Sweaters, basically,” he deadpanned. “I covered sweaters.” (See Sweater Weather.)
He went on to describe his ascension to editor in chief of Details, at the age of 28, as the result of being in the right place at the right time. “Everyone in charge of giving me the job at Details made a really bizarre call,” he said. (See: Why You Should Be Networking.)
During his post-speech Q&A, several students questioned how the magazine treats homosexuality. (See: Does Everyone Think You’re Gay?) Mr. Peres personally apologized for a 2004 “Gay or Asian” installment of the former “Gay or ____” feature which angered both gays and Asians. But the editor defended himself against charges that the magazine suffers from a latent homophobia, saying the magazine attacks stereotypes of all kinds, and that Details is for a particular type of reader who appreciates that approach. (See: I Said I’m Not Gay.)
“I don’t think we are making fun of gay men,” (see: Would You Really Be Okay With a Gay Baby?) said Mr. Peres. “And if we do, it’s no more or less than we make fun of straight men.” (See: Is Straight the New Square?).
“Looking at cultural stereotypes in this country within the realm of masculinity is what we do, and it’s what we do well,” he continued. (See: Is Being Well Hung the Key to Happiness?)
Mr. Peres admitted it took him some time to adjust to the editor’s desk (See: You’re The Boss, Not a Buddy), but he insisted Details has developed a distinct point of view since he replaced a carousel of editors that many felt had diluted the title. (See: Welcome to the Age of Self-Promotion.)
“We’re not a magazine for every guy. In fact, we’re not a magazine for most guys. It’s just a certain guy—both gay and straight—who is going to like what we do,” he told the crowd (See: Mavericks). That narrow focus has made Details one of the smallest Condé Nast titles, but that does not seem to bother Mr. Peres. “I have the great fortune of working for a company and a man who is not all about scale… They’re still patient with us as a smaller title. And they’re nurturing us, and we’re healthy. I wouldn’t say robust, but we’re healthy.” (See: How Far Would You Go To Get Taller?)
So what was all this about a difficult day?
Late in his speech, Mr. Peres divulged what had disturbed him that afternoon. “I looked up on the wall where the papers get mini’ed… and I don’t really like the way the May issue is shaping up,” he told the crowd. (See: The Love Doctor.)
A May issue, you say? Shaping up? Sounds like the day could have gone much, much worse. (See: The New Status Guilt.)