“She has the absolute right credentials and literary sensibility for what we need” Harper’s editor Ellen Rosenbush said of Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, who was hired as a senior editor last week.
Ms. Foley-Mendelssohn, who begins her new job the first week of April, currently oversees the Paris Review Daily blog, which she joined from The New Yorker’s Book Bench blog last year. Her replacement at The Paris Review has yet to be named.
Harper’s recently took a beating in the annual byline count of prestigious magazines put out by VIDA, a foundation for women in the literary arts, coming in behind The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation and The Paris Review in overall gender equality.
Ms. Rosenbush told Off the Record she thought the count was a little skewed, considering Granta had published an all-women issue, but said she tries to have an xx byline in every issue and is always looking for women writers.
“It’s a mandate,” she acknowledged.
Are female editors better at bringing in women writers?
“I think it was easier for me,” she said. “There are certain women that I’ve always admired that I went after. Not only Zadie Smith but Susan Faludi—she did a big cover piece for us, and I’ll try to get her back.”
Ms. Foley-Mendelssohn replaces Gemma Sieff, who was made culture editor at the Jay Fielden-helmed Town & Country earlier this month.
“We will miss Gemma,” Ms. Rosenbush said. “Town & Country is a very different type of magazine, but it’s a very big opportunity for her.”
There is, however, one thing the magazine in the country has in common with Hearst’s glossy social register: An atavistic approach to the Internet.
Unlike Town & Country, Harper’s at least posts its content, albeit protected by a pay wall.
Publisher John “Rick” MacArthur described the reasoning behind the decision at length in a Columbia j-school lecture, which was published by the Providence Journal earlier this month.
In the piece, Mr. MacArthur called the Internet “nothing more than a giant Xerox machine” and argued that parasitic tech companies had duped traditional media—including former Harper’s editor Clara Jeffery—into giving their work away for free. He also said rival The Atlantic’s claim of profitability from online advertising was “preposterous” and a “falsehood.”
For her part, Ms. Rosenbush stressed that, despite her publisher’s disdain for the web, Harper’s is in the midst of a website overhaul, due to be launched in the fall.
“Obviously it’s with Rick’s approval,” she said.
The new website will make a limited amount of content available for free, but most of the current issue will stay behind the pay wall.
“We in editorial are very, very, very excited about it,” Ms. Rosenbush said of the redesign. “I can’t say it more strongly.”
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