In this session of THiNK 2013, aptly titled “Beauty and the Beast: The Crisis of Global Media”, world famous editor Tina Brown discussed the process of building a journalism brand and her personal experiences in editing some of the most influential publications of the 20th century including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
Brown rose to prominence as the editor of Tatler at the age of 25, re-inventing the then-insignificant British magazine into a glossy publication. She got a break when the boss of Conde Nast asked her to turn around Vanity Fair, a magazine they had unsuccessfully launched – âan amazing gift to a young, aggressive editorâ is how she chose to describe it. Brown described her first days at Vanity Fair as a complete mess, a dry publication with âpictures of intellectuals on the covers, Phillip Roth with his finger up his noseâ. She realised that in order to push higher literary pieces and get them through to a mass audience, Vanity Fair as a package needed to be much more sexy, a mix of high and low culture, of Hollywood and academia, and recognised the importance of bringing fresh photographers and writers together to produce iconic pieces.
Brown also recounted her very different experience of working at The New Yorker, which she described as a âSleeping Beauty, a beautiful, iconic literary magazine with a sleepy, dusty older readershipâ. She needed to reinvent it without distancing it from its identity and tradition. Brown eventually recruited amazing new talents, giving it a much edgier style.
When asked about the impact of the Internet on traditional press, Brown gave her assessment, âThe digital explosion has been disruptive without providing anything elseâ, there is no alternative business model in sight. This has led to what she described as âan alarming moment in journalismâ with the mushrooming of native advertisement and branded content, and the overall decline of big narrative writing pieces. Before the digital age, said Brown, âNewspapers were like a full meal, you would get exposed to a variety of thingsâ. Today, the fracturing of traditional news content enabled by news feeds and Twitter is intellectually limiting. And although societies cannot live without journalism, consumers of news are simply no longer paying for news.
By Sara Sudetic