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Ellies 2007: So What Do You Do, Moisés Naím, Editor, Foreign Policy?

This editor's led his mag to three straight years of General Excellence nominations

- April 26, 2007
ellies_hardware.jpgLeading up to the May 1 2007 National Magazine Awards, mediabistro.com is publishing a special package of our popular interview series, "So What Do You Do?," with daily interviews of selected nominees, ranging from well-known to obscure. Today, we chat with Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy, which has been nominated for General Excellence three years running.

See our other interviews with Ellie 2007 nominees: Joyce Rutter Kaye, Editor, Print; David Granger, Editor, Esquire?; Jay Stowe, Editor, Cincinnati; Ted Genoways, Editor, Virginia Quarterly Review; Mark Strauss, Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Name: Moisés Naím
Position: Editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy
Last three jobs: Senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Executive director, World Bank; Minister of industry and trade, Venezuela
Birth date: July 5, 1952
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Education: Ph.D., MIT
Marital status: Married, with three children
First section of the Sunday Times: Week in Review
Favorite television show: Entourage
Guilty pleasure: Entourage
Last book read: Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration, by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
2007 Nominations: Two (General Excellence and Essay)



Do you think Americans are focusing more on foreign policy because of factors such as the Iraq war, globalization, and global warming? How has this affected the magazine?
It is unquestionable that Americans are more focused on foreign policy since 9/11, though I think we all wish that the increased interest would have been the result of more positive news. FP’s motto is "What happens here matters there -- and vice versa." And the 9/11 attacks and everything else that has happened since has clearly shown the importance of understanding how our world is now connected in the most improbable and surprising ways. Showing those connections and explaining their consequences is an important part of what we try to offer our readers.

Which media outlets are Foreign Policy's direct competitors?
We see ourselves as filling a very distinct niche between Foreign Affairs and The Economist.

When did you know you wanted to be editor of Foreign Policy? How did you get the job?
I wanted to be an editor since I ran my high school newspaper. When the opportunity to become the editor of Foreign Policy became available, it was very alluring.

Morton Abramowitz, then-president of our publisher, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, appointed a search committee to conduct a wide-ranging search for the magazine’s next editor. Like everyone else, I submitted my application and a memo outlining my plans for the future of the magazine. I knew that it was a competitive process, so I tried to keep my hopes in check. To my surprise, I made the shortlist and, after innumerable interviews, was selected and given the opportunity to implement my vision on how to turn the magazine around. That was 10 years ago and I am still on it. It is the best job I have ever had.


"Nothing beats being recognized by the toughest audience out there -- your peers"


What do you think of your Ellies chances? Were you surprised by the nomination?
We won the General Excellence Award in 2003 in a lower-circulation category and have been nominated for the past three years -- which, in itself, is a big honor. But, you never take such an honor for granted. Nothing beats being recognized by the toughest audience out there -- your peers. I think our chances are as good as anyone’s, but each of the nominees is such a good magazine that I have no idea of who the winner will be.

Take us through a typical day in the life of Foreign Policy’s editor. (be specific if you can -- "Wake up @ 8:30, watch the Today show, etc....)
It depends if I am on the road, which I often am, or in Washington, where FP is based. When I am not traveling, I usually wake up very early and do my writing and reading until late morning. I then go to the office and often stay until 8 or 9pm.

How do you feel about the state of the industry?
Everyone knows that the industry is in a state of profound turmoil driven by rapid changes in technology and consumer behavior. Yet, I am sincerely optimistic about the future of the industry. Yes, it will be drastic and painful, and the industry may look very different in the not-too-distant future. But, I have no doubt that the massive amount of information we now constantly receive only heightens a very basic human need for reliable guides that help make sense of the information avalanche. Editors, publications, sites, and other vehicles that are trusted by readers will always succeed. Having a well-known, trusted brand will be even more valuable than in the past.

What's the biggest challenge of your job as an editor?
Anticipating what the world will be talking about. But, that’s only the first part. Then, I have to ask myself: How are others in the media going to be talking about that, and how can we add value to that conversation and offer readers a perspective they can't find anywhere else? Then be thankful that you have a talented and dedicated staff to make it happen.

A lot of magazines are currently trying to figure out the Web. Is this a problem for you? What are you doing to compete online?
Actually, the Web is a big reason for my optimism about the industry. In our case, being a bimonthly, we saw a real need to stay engaged with our readers in between issues of the magazine. So, we made a conscientious decision a few years back to expand our Web-exclusive content in order to make ForeignPolicy.com both an extension of the print edition and a destination in its own right. The result has been that we have seen our Web traffic nearly double in just the past few years. And this past year, we have introduced our blog, Passport, which features insights and analysis by our editors throughout the day.

What's the next step for Foreign Policy?
I am looking forward to FP’s continued expansion on the Web and overseas, particularly through our foreign editions and our fast-growing syndication business. We are pleased by the appetite for our content shown by other publications abroad and by the success of our editions in other languages. FP is currently published in 12 editions in nine different languages, and we plan to add at least two more non-English editions this year. As with everyone else in the business, the Web has opened infinite opportunities for us, and we are continuously finding ways to grow on the Web and to monetize that growth.

What will you be wearing to the Ellies?
Well, we’re based in Washington -- the land of politicians, bureaucrats, diplomats, and policy wonks -- and we have a well-deserved reputation for being fashion-challenged. But I’ll try my best. Then again, I guess it is hard to mess up black-tie.


[Noah Davis is assistant editor at mediabistro.com. He can be reached at noah AT mediabistro DOT com.]

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