New York Times Names New Culture Editor
R.I.P. The New York Times’ Culture Editor Arthur Gelb
BREAKING… It’s Travel Editor Danielle Mattoon, whose name only recently joined a small list of four candidates for the high-profile New York Times Culture Editor job which directs coverage of Hollywood as well as high-brow. This one-time Arts & Leisure deputy editor became the paper’s replacement for Stuart Emmrich who moved from Travel to take over the Style section. She was senior editor at Tina Brown’s short-lived Talk magazine before landing as deputy culture editor at the NYT. Before that, she was an editor at Rolling Stone. I’ve always thought the NYT Travel section one of the truly bright spots in an otherwise increasingly grey and uninteresting Sunday read. Also Spin veteran Sia Michel was upped from deputy editor to the new editor for Arts & Leisure, succeeding Scott Veale who ran it for 5 years and will soon be named to a new editing role.
Executive Editor Jill Abramson‘s announcement today was nearly 4 weeks late according to her own timetable for naming a new Culture Editor. Then again, she has a lot on her plate because her publication is beset by financial problems, editorial buyouts, stiff competition, not to mention conservative critics who want to put what they see as the Liberal Paper Of Record out of business. Abramson was replacing Jonathan Landman who took a voluntary January buyout intended to reduce staff, then bid a private Culture department–only goodbye on February 1st at a farewell bash at a bar in the Woolworth Building with Bill Keller, Sam Sifton, and others in attendance. (Seems there were many speeches and Landman was presented with a big gag crown.)
My sources identified 4 main candidates including Mattoon for the Culture Editor job whom Abramson had expected to name by February 11th: onetime wonderkind Jodi Kantor, respected film critic AO Scott, and web editor Julie Bloom. The latter was the most interesting candidate: currently Bloom is the NYT’s Culture Web Editor at New York Times Digital, and my sources believed her appointment would have signaled a seismic shift in the paper’s treatment of the web as a second-class citizen vis a vis print. There was nearly universal surprise when Scott threw his hat into the ring. But Kantor was widely considered the favorite if not a shoo-in.
Actually, what surprises me more than Mattoon’s appointment is that this Culture Editor search caused barely a blip on the radar of the media which used to hone in on all things NYT. But those days are gone. The most damning thing to say about the NYT’s Culture section is that Hollywood doesn’t read it much anymore. That’s because the showbiz ink has dwindled and become divided between the Business, Culture, Arts & Leisure, Magazine and even Style sections. How is it determined which article goes where? “If you can find out that answer, please tell me,” one onsider admits to me. The departed Lynn Hirschberg singlehandedly made the NYT magazine irrelevant in Hollywood by profiling filmmakers repped by producers or publicists who were her pals yet whose movies didn’t have a prayer of Oscar nods. (Remember her piece on Jarhead?) Now the Arts & Leisure section is making itself irrelevant by publishing overly long breathless pieces about movies that don’t break ground or deliver grosses. (One recent example was a tribute to Gangster Squad, which everyone else knew was dead on arrival in theaters. The paper claimed its director was “trying something new” when even Warner Bros execs reasoned it was “the same old/same old”.) As for the Business and Culture sections, more Hollywood stuff is printed in the Culture section than in Business “by a 4-to-1 margin”, by one reporter’s estimate. (I would have guessed the reverse.) The paper’s so-called Media Group work for Bruce Headlam and his #2 Bill Brink – and those two decide where to direct each article. “A lot of the time it frankly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” one insider admits to me.