Thursday, January 22, 2004

Magazine Me XLVII

Somewhat cool on the heels of Ken Gordon's August examination of Boston's declining magazine publishing community, CommonWealth's Jeffrey Klineman recently wrote a wider ranging but similar piece contending that Boss Town will never be a media mecca.

While many of the names and ideas included in the feature parallel Gordon's precursor, there's some new here. Robert Kuttner, one of the founders of The American Prospect, says that Boston's intellectual base makes it "a very good place for what they call 'thought-leader magazines.'" Cullen Murphy, managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly, cites the Boston Globe's Ideas section as an indication of that tradition. Problem is, Alexander Star, that section's editor, just decamped for New York City, as well -- where he will step in as senior editor at the New York Times Magazine. Will Joshua Glenn become Ideas editor -- or follow Star?

And several sources touch on why Boston might remain a hotbed for startup magazines -- while not needing to retain their hometown hotshots. Quoth my former boss Alan Webber: "There's no presumption of a right or a need to be a headquarters of a nationally prominent magazine to be a great city."

That said: "I don't think we could have started the magazine in New York. In some cases, it's harder to do something new when you're in the headquarters of the old. We were close enough to New York to get advice and direction and professional input, but without having to listen to the steady drumbeat and inevitable discouragement of people saying 'you can't do it that way' that comes from being in the headquarters of the old regime. We were doing a business magazine about ideas and new ways of thinking about business, and Boston is a great place for that kind of talent."

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