Why Didn’t The Forward Choose Alana Newhouse?

Here’s my Alana Newhouse section.

Mark Oppenheimer writes:

…Alana has managed the newspaper’s transition to a new, award-winning website, and she is good on TV and radio (listen to her great insights about Portnoy’s Complaint)–she understands how to work in different media. Not many editors do.

So, is she the first young (30) editor to be passed over for an older, more experienced editor? Of course not. It happens often, and in fact I think it should happen more often. I think too many magazines and newspapers promote young people quixotically, hoping that they will know how magically to attract younger readers. (Four years ago I myself was given a job I probably wasn’t ready for, given it in part, I think, because I was young.) The New Republic, to take one example, would be a much better magazine if it had more editors who were beyond their twenties or thirties.

But in this case I have read the writing on the wall–a biblical allusion Alana would get; would Jane?–and don’t like what I see. This strikes me less as a promotion of old over young than as strict news over polymathic news-and-culture; establishment credentials over new media skills; and the ever elusive "management skills" and "gravitas" over panache and enthusiasm. Except even that’s not quite right, because Alana is a terrific manager; she has been acting as editor of the news section for the past year while J.J. Goldberg was on book leave, and during that time the news hole has been better, morale has (from what I can tell) been very high, and–best of all, one would think–subscription renewals are up.

So, I can’t figure it out. But one thing is clear: the arts section that Alana edits has been generating most of the buzz for the paper for years now. That’s not a slight toward the news writers–heck, if Leon Wieseltier left The New Republic, that magazine would take a huge hit in subscriptions–arts is big, and lot of people read the back of the book first, you know? Last time the paper got a new editor, after Lipsky’s firing, several editors and writers left soon after, and the arts section took years to recover. If Newhouse leaves in anger, one of New York’s most important sites for arts and culture criticism will have lost its captain. And it’s hard to say who could steer it so well.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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