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At just a minute or two before 6 o'clock last Tuesday afternoon, the bar at midtown's legendary Four Seasons restaurant looked the way you'd expect it to look early on a Tuesday night, with a smattering of drab business types, gray-haired men in navy suits paying for brown drinks with their platinum cards. But then, at 6, the cocktail hour began for mediabistro.com's annual Dinner + Dis(course) event, and the room got much more colorful. Soon enough, more than 80 of the top editors from New York's top women's magazines had overtaken the bar, ready to spend an evening with their colleagues discussing the future of their business.
Laurel Touby, the founder of mediabistro.com, shared her hosting duties that night with a very high-powered editorial crowd. The generous cohostesses were (pictured below with Laurel, from left) Kim France, editor-in-chief of Lucky, Amy Gross, editor-in-chief of O, The Oprah Magazine, Sally Koslow, editor-in-chief of Lifetime, Susan Ungaro, editor-in-chief of Family Circle, and Andrea Pyros, executive editor of YM.com. Leslie Jane Seymour (not pictured), editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, was also a great cohostess, as was Robbie Myers, editor-in-chief of Elle, who was unable to attend.
After greeting old friends, meeting new ones, and catching up through the cocktail hour, the crowd moved over to the Grill Room for dinner. Over a lobster ravioli appetizer and a main course of roasted quail—and no doubt helped by the free-flowing wine from our friends at the St. Francis Winery—the editors dove into the recommended discussion questions. With such a collection of women's magazine power in one room, there were three topics worth considering.
First, how does the trend toward reality topics, started by reality TV but invading magazines through as-told-tos, confessionals, reader tips, and the like, affect these magazines? Is reader-generating content taking over? And will this ultimately put seasoned journalists out of work?
Second, how does the success of new, very targeted titles—things like Real Simple and Lucky—affect the general-interest stalwarts? Do the traditional titles have to change to retain their competitiveness?
And, finally, why are women's mags wallflowers on the awards circuit? Why do they so rarely win National Magazine Awards, and how can they start getting more respect?
It's that last question that got the most attention, as Women's Wear Daily reported (second item) Friday. There was a bit of a take-to-the-barricades feeling, as several of the editors planned to meet with ASME higher-ups to recommend changes to the award categories that might make it more possible for women's mags to take home an Ellie. “Every now and then, maybe it’s time for a renovation,” Lesley Jane Seymour told WWD's Greg Lindsay.
But, ultimately, the brewing insurrection was really just a small part of the night. More than anything else, these editors enjoyed the chance to eat good food, have interesting conversation, and celebrate a nice night with a whole cross-section of their colleagues.
—Text by Jesse Oxfeld. Photographs by Stefano Giovannini.
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mediabistro.com thanks the evening's sponsors: