Top Fiction Editor

Bill Buford, The New Yorker ‘s fiction editor since 1994, will be leaving his post to become the magazine’s European correspondent. His last issue editing fiction will be the magazine’s Christmas issue, and he will start as a staff writer in January.

“In a way, it’s going from the best editing job in town to the best writing job in town-except it’s not in town,” Mr. Buford said.

Mr. Buford, 48, has not decided exactly where in Europe he will move, but said he won’t be leaving until next summer. He said he became interested in the job about a year ago when New Yorker editor David Remnick mentioned the need for a writer overseas. “I thought, ‘Shit, that’s me,'” Mr. Buford said.

Mr. Remnick was generous in his praise of his departing fiction editor, and pleased that Mr. Buford would remain on the staff.

“I think Bill Buford has been one of the best fiction editors The New Yorker has ever known,” Mr. Remnick said. “I’m delighted that he’s going to be with us full time as a writer, where he’s always distinguished himself.”

“It’s a no-lose situation,” Mr. Remnick added.

Mr. Buford will also be working on his own books; he recently landed a three-book deal with Knopf and Random House U.K., One, called Heat, will be about Mario Batali, the Babbo chef Mr. Buford profiled this summer in The New Yorker . Another book is a collection of short pieces taken from the BBC called Letters from America . Mr. Buford’s third book is a memoir about his father and the aerospace industry in California.

Mr. Buford came to The New Yorker from the literary quarterly Granta , which he edited for 15 years. While living in England, he penned a nonfiction book about rabid soccer fans called Among the Thugs . He was hired by then- New Yorker editor Tina Brown in 1994 to succeed Charles McGrath, now the editor of The New York Times Book Review. Mr. Buford proceeded to bring in a number of high-profile and unknown fiction writers, including work by Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, Nathan Englander and his former assistant, Nell Freudenberger.

Neither Mr. Buford nor Mr. Remnick mentioned any specific candidates for the magazine’s next fiction editor, but Mr. Remnick said a search was underway.

Mr. Buford said that his successor, whomever it turns out to be, will have excellent timing and a great opportunity.

“It’s a great moment in American fiction,” Mr. Buford said. “I don’t think anybody needs advice.”

-Joe Hagan

An old New York Times feud-the epochal struggle of the late 1960’s, when the newspaper’s Washington bureau initially beat back and defeated the New York editors who eventually came back to run the paper-has found new life.

In John Stacks’ forthcoming book, Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism (Little, Brown), former New York Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal, now a columnist for the Daily News , unloads on the late James Reston, The Times ‘ longtime columnist, Washington bureau chief, short-time executive editor, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the most nearly deified presence in the paper’s history.

Though Mr. Rosenthal is no stranger to speaking his mind, his unforgiving attack on his former boss and adversary startled Mr. Stacks, the former Washington bureau chief and chief of correspondents for Time magazine.

“Reston hardly mentioned Abe,” Mr. Stacks said, referring to Reston’s 1992 Deadline: A Memoir . “He certainly didn’t continue the feud. There were actually letters from Reston to Rosenthal that I saw that were quite conciliatory. This would be years after the fact. Abe was still pretty hot.”

Thirty-four years have passed since Mr. Reston precipitated the internal crisis that helped The Times feel the kind of reported invasion that the rest of the press would know later on. In 1968, Mr. Reston-protecting his turf and his protégés-helped sabotage the installation of Mr. Rosenthal’s friend, former State Department deputy spokesman James Greenfield, to replace Mr. Reston’s protégé, Tom Wicker, as Washington bureau chief. Mr. Rosenthal was then on the rise at The Times , and almost as different socially, culturally and intellectually from Mr. Reston as he could possibly be.

In an effort to keep Mr. Reston’s cadre of Washington stars from defecting-Mr. Wicker, Anthony Lewis, Max Frankel and Neil Sheehan were all Scotty’s men-Arthur Ochs (Punch) Sulzberger, the comparatively new publisher of the paper, reversed his own decision to name Mr. Greenfield. Mr. Rosenthal blew a gasket; Turner Catledge, the executive editor who backed the move, precipitously began to think of retirement; and the civil and gentlemanly managing editor, Clifton Daniel, was so beside himself that he dressed down Mr. Sulzberger, losing the publisher’s respect and his shot at taking over.

It’s a story that became the centerpiece of The Kingdom and the Power , Gay Talese’s majestic New Journalism history of The Times -a story that culminated with the volcanic Mr. Rosenthal weeping behind a closed door as he told Mr. Greenfield the news that he wasn’t going to Washington, and Mr. Greenfield telling Mr. Rosenthal, “Abe, don’t ever ask me to come into this place again.” (Eventually, though, he did return.)

In an effort to weld the cracks within the paper’s power structure, Mr. Sulzberger convinced Mr. Reston, the most powerful columnist in America, to become the new executive editor and move to New York, a switch that was, in time, generally written off as a failure-including by Mr. Reston.

It should have worked. Here was a Washington man-albeit the Washington man-now running the show from the paper’s home base.

But from the start, there were problems-particularly with his immediate deputy, Mr. Rosenthal. Recalling a plan to create a group of elite correspondents that would be highly paid and more autonomous than the regular army of Times beat reporters, Mr. Rosenthal recalls in the book: “It was not going to happen. We were not going to have two classes of reporters, one of them getting all the good assignments, special working conditions, money, all the rest of it. We struggled very hard to make this one newspaper instead of a collection of duchies. Scotty wanted to take us back where, in the same room, we would have duchies.”

Speaking to Reston’s effort as executive editor, Mr. Rosenthal refuses to let up, telling Mr. Stacks: “It didn’t work at all and I don’t think he ever intended it to work. If you’re going to be executive editor, you’ve got to be one. I don’t think Scotty ever had much respect for editors at all. They were not part of his life. He never gave up his column. He didn’t give a shit about being executive editor.”

Granted, everyone-including Reston himself, who left the slot 13 months after he started, but stayed at the paper through the 1980’s, writing long after his 1974 retirement-acknowledged that he had never felt fully engaged as executive editor. Mr. Reston’s game was world leaders, power, Walter Lippman-like ideas, history, protégés, wit, wistfulness, politics, ethics, Calvinism and news. His tenure as executive editor resulted in enlarging the byline type size. Washington was his territory.

Mr. Rosenthal, a more engaged and volcanic man, was closer to the street, the injustices of history and smashing the sometimes arid power structure that ruled The Times . He could be cruel and sentimental, hot and cold, but never chilly. The two men shared one thing, however: to each, The Times was his life.

But in Scotty , Mr. Rosenthal goes after Reston with the force of an adversary, the same force that characterized his much-publicized battle with the former Reston protégé and Mr. Rosenthal’s successor as executive editor, Max Frankel, following the publication of Mr. Frankel’s memoir, The Times of My Life: And My Life with The Times.

When, for instance, Mr. Stacks informed Mr. Rosenthal that Reston had apologized for his performance as executive editor in his retirement note to Mr. Sulzberger, Mr. Rosenthal said: “He owed Punch that apology and to a lot of others because he took the number one job on the Times and ignored it. He owed Punch an apology and he owed me one too, and he owed Greenfield.”

Reached by Off the Record, Mr. Rosenthal declined to elaborate on the comments made in the book. “We were trying to do different things,” he said of himself and Reston. “What Scotty was trying to do was put out an editorialized paper, and he ran it pretty much on a crony basis. That’s not commenting on his ability to write or get a story. But the truth was he was part of a different generation that reported on an access basis-whether they knew the British ambassador or not. There was little investigative reporting. It was a different generation.”

Asked why he had chosen to speak to Mr. Stacks after suppressing the topic for so long, Mr. Rosenthal said: “I guess he caught me in a too-talkative mood.”

Mr. Greenfield, then 43, now 78 and retired, said this about his volcanic friend: “Well, I think Abe’s just dead serious when it comes to The Times . Everything he ever did in his life revolved around The Times . That’s his life.”

Mr. Talese, who has great affection for Mr. Rosenthal, agreed. “He’s a very emotional guy,” he said. “He’s not about to contain his feelings. Let’s take a political campaign, where there’s all sorts of back-biting and double-dealing that goes on, and afterwards the people can kiss and make up. That’s not Abe. With him, the surface is the same as what’s down deep. When he’s angry about something, he shows it. And he doesn’t forget.”

Former Op-Ed columnist Anthony Lewis, who played a part in the struggle, and whom Reston later tried unsuccessfully to place as Mr. Rosenthal’s deputy (Sulzberger compensated him with his column), rose to Reston’s defense: “Scotty Reston may have been the most thoughtful human being I’d ever met in my life,” Mr. Lewis said. “Thoughtful, totally devoted to The New York Times . Not that Abe wasn’t. I never worked with Abe. Scotty was just a generous person …. He was interested in The New York Times .”

For Mr. Stacks, Scotty ‘s publication is the culmination of 10 years of work. He told Off the Record that Mr. Rosenthal had expressed his views in a one-on-one sit-down interview and a couple of phone conversations in 2000.

“Abe was much more confrontational when it came to sources,” Mr. Stacks said, “and deeply, deeply concerned about editorializing in the paper, and Reston had pioneered a kind of writing which is predominant today, which is interpretive news writing. So there were power issues, there were personal issues.”

People at the paper, said Mr. Stacks, “still divide them as Abe men and Scotty men.” Max Frankel, he said, “was a Scotty guy. So it was Scotty, then Abe, Max. And there are people at the paper who still consider themselves either one or the other-and fiercely.

“There’s always a struggle for what the role of the newspaper is in the modern age,” Mr. Stacks continued. “And Reston firmly believed its future and role had to be interpretive, and give the kind of analysis that you couldn’t get from radio or television. I’m sure he would feel that way today.”

-Sridhar Pappu

Lally Weymouth, meet Courtney Love. Courtney Love, meet Lally Weymouth. According to sources familiar with the situation, Newsweek has purchased and will soon run an excerpt from the forthcoming book Journals by the late Kurt Cobain. The focus of longtime speculation by both publishers and Nirvana fans, Journals was originally written in 23 volumes spread over 800 pages-which included drawings, letters and original song lyrics. Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, will publish the book in November.

Asked to comment, a spokesperson for Riverhead Books referred the matter to the folks at Newsweek . Newsweek ‘s editor, Mark Whitaker, referred Off the Record to a spokesperson for the magazine, who said: “We don’t comment on future reporting.”


Maggie Haberman has left her gig at the City Hall bureau of the New York Post to join the Daily News .

News editor in chief Ed Kosner, in confirming Ms. Haberman’s appointment, told Off the Record: “She’ll do general-assignment stuff. She can do a lot.”

Ms. Haberman, who lately has covered the World Trade Center rebuilding story for the Post , declined to comment about her new position for Off the Record.

However, Ms. Haberman’s departure from the Post left some at the paper concerned. As Post sources pointed out, Ms. Haberman is the third female reporter to switch tabloids this year, following Tracy Connor and Kirsten Danis.

As one Post source remarked: “It’s been noticed. They’re all young. They’re all women. They’re all pretty highly valued.”

Post editor in chief Col Allan didn’t return a call from Off the Record seeking comment. However, Post metro editor Jesse Angelo, when asked, said the paper wasn’t having trouble keeping its female talent.

“We’re sad to see her go,” Mr. Angelo said of Ms. Haberman. “She made a decision, which obviously we think is an incorrect one, but that she felt was the right one.”


Back in March, in an act of shameless self-promotion and cross-company marketing, Hearst’s Cosmopolitan and Maxim , owned by Dennis Publishing, ran dual features in which, well, Maxim editors told the Cosmo reader what men wanted, and vice versa-a temporary truce in the proverbial battle of the sexes. During the process of getting to know one another, Cosmo editor in chief Kate White and her counterpart at Maxim , Keith Blanchard, became quick friends. At the time, Ms. White was coming out with a novel, If Looks Could Kill , about a murder within a women’s magazine, which became the first selection for Regis and Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa’s on-air book club.

So with Mr. Blanchard’s own attempt at fiction, The Deed , set to come out next March, to whom did he turn for a blurb? That’s right, Ms. White.

“What a delicious read!” Ms. White-identified solely as the author of If Looks Could Kill -says on cover of The Deed . “In this fresh and funny first novel, Blanchard proves himself to be a talented chronicler of modern men in the modern city.”

A Cosmopolitan spokesperson said Ms. White was unavailable for comment. Mr. Blanchard said: “What can I say? It’s a marriage made in heaven!”

Has he asked Ms. White to pass along the book to Ms. Ripa?

“No,” Mr. Blanchard said, “but now I will.”

-S.P. Top Fiction Editor