Exit Tina Brown New Yorker: Magazine must have good taste, substance and profit, or none of the above.

July 15, 1998

IF the New Yorker were just another magazine, nobody would care who edits it or how. Because it has been unique, because its intelligence and taste have been so high, people do care.

Tina Brown, the first female editor after three males, the first English after three Americans, the first splashy journalist after three intellectuals, shook readers up.

To save taste, she introduced vulgarity; to preserve tradition, she offended it; to rescue style, she substituted fashion; to preserve worth, she added celebrity. All in search of more readers, whom she found, and profit, which eluded her.

Was she rescuing the great American cultural innovation of the 20th century or making it just another Vanity Fair? Her departure ends that argument.

For owner S. I. Newhouse Jr., who just folded the enterprise into his Conde Nast magazine stable for economies, the issue lives.

His choice to succeed Ms. Brown as editor is David Remnick, one-time Washington Post correspondent in Moscow, a wonderful writer and authority on Kremlin infighting. He is presented the conundrum that there is no saving the New Yorker without profit, but no purpose in the effort if it is no longer the New Yorker.

Ms. Brown departs to create a magazine to turn into books for Miramax to make into movies for Disney to show on ABC. Stunning idea: Start with synergy, then invent the product.

First, someone will need to read that magazine for someone else to advertise.

If it works, it could equal the invention of the New Yorker. If it collapses, no tradition will be traduced.

That's the point of a clean slate.

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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