The Adventures of Maer Roshan, Editorial Boy Wonder

The former Radar editor bounces back from rehab with a new website, The Fix, and a top-secret iPad project called Punch.

Full disclosure: I’m biased. I worked closely with Mr. Roshan for years under sometimes stressful circumstances. He assigned and edited two of my best stories and taught me more than any editor I’ve ever worked with—even if, O.K., he was occasionally a little bleary or zonked out on doctor-prescribed Klonopin (which as a recent article in The Fix points out, is one of the more destructive medications available).

Mostly, he was a blast to work for—mirthful, brilliant and routinely exasperating. Despite his editing prowess (he is amazing with structure and narrative), he types with two fingers and often leaves caps-lock on by mistake. He has yet to master the technical nuances of website bookmarking, and typically checks his own sites by typing in the U.R.L. He cares little for food and seems happiest with a tuna melt. “Maer has lived off pizza his entire life,” marveled Mr. Tennant, who recalled Mr. Roshan at a business lunch at Masa “holding chopsticks in his hand like a 4-year-old.”

He tends to smoke only a few drags of a Marlboro Light before firing up another, sometimes without extinguishing the first. He can be the same way with stories. I once arrived on a movie set in Williamsburg to profile a hipster porn star only to find another Radar writer who’d been sent for the same purpose. (Radar 2.0 folded before either piece ran.) During features meetings, he could often be counted on to propose pieces that seemed oddly familiar, leaving it to Mr. Tennant to remind him the story had run in an earlier generation of the magazine. That said, they were almost always a good idea, both times around.

At times, I was one Mr. Roshan’s most effective enablers. When his hands would shake, or he’d disappear for a while, I helped maintain the illusion that everything was fine, sometimes blatantly misleading colleagues about his whereabouts. Not that I invented the lies, but I dutifully repeated them: family emergencies, medical emergencies, much-needed vacations. It seemed like part of the gig.

I also cursed his name on a number of occasions, watching more or less impotently as the magazine he’d bled for went down for the final time, despite an ASME nomination for general excellence not six months before. That it later resurfaced as a shady Octomom gossip portal overseen—in an injustice that seems almost cosmic—by AMI’s David Pecker somehow made the whole thing worse, especially when they stripped the old content from the site and adopted a pink and green color scheme.

For those last few months of Radar, I was plagued by bouts of insomnia, episodes my wife took to calling “nightmaers.”

Conflicted doesn’t begin to cover it.

Then again, lots of people seem to be conflicted about Mr. Roshan. To read through Radar’s old press is to step into media steam room so cloudy with schadenfreude, you have to squint to make out the hazy figures in the corner and what exactly they’re up to. Kurt Andersen wrote a strongly worded critique of the magazine in 2005, nailing it for, among other things, its many similarities to Spy (“like a tribute band”), and published the piece in New York, the magazine where he’d hired Mr. Roshan as a senior editor a few years before.

Then there was Gawker—the outlet that had most assiduously followed the magazine’s ups and downs (branding its blanket coverage “The Greatest American Magazine Re-Relaunch”) even as the site’s own mordant take on media and celebrity arguably made the whole idea of Radar seem superfluous. Radar was a classic Gawker story. Despite having been a fan, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton remarked in a GChat, “We quite quickly made it a target. Such a lurid cast of characters.” He was referring not to the editorial staff but to the rogues’ gallery of backers, including Mr. Zuckerman and financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein—news of whose proclivities are thought to have led Mr. Zuckerman to dump his share of the property—and subsequently supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle and his aide-de-camp Yusef Jackson (a beer distributor and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who perched on a stability ball during meetings and employed the disconcerting email sign-off “God Bless”).

“Radar was the charge of the light brigade,” Mr. Denton added. “Glorious, but not good business. It was a throwback.”

Somewhat infamously, Team Radar sought revenge during the magazine’s 2005 launch party when somebody pushed a pie into Mr. Denton’s face—a throwback sort of stunt, to be sure, but one that made for a good photo op and a Drudge pickup. Not that it quashed the beef. At one point, Gawker writer Choire Sicha posted an item suggesting Radar wasn’t paying freelancers (we were), without mentioning that he himself had freelanced for and been paid by Radar not long before. “Don’t your readers deserve to know that?” I demanded over the phone, to which he replied that it could all be sorted out in the comments. Eventually, he did append an update: “Good news! We haven’t heard from any other contributors to the new Radar who’ve had trouble! Isn’t that lovely?”

That it had by then become easier for a freelance writer to fire off an anonymous complaint to Gawker than to return an assignment contract seemed indicative of the weirdly intimate love-hate relationship a certain group of journalists had developed with Mr. Roshan. Shortly thereafter, when Mr. Sicha wound up as a Radar colleague, it seemed not only farcical but somehow par for the course. It was always complicated with Radar.

The Adventures of Maer Roshan, Editorial Boy Wonder