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Ellies 2007: So What Do You Do, Adam Moss, Editor, New York?

The frenetic pace of a weekly mag doesn't stop this multi-Ellie-nominated editor from harnessing the Web and earning accolades along the way

By Dylan Stableford - May 1, 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 newly-elected ASME secretary and New York editor-in-chief Adam Moss

See our other interviews with Ellie 2007 nominees: Cindi Leive, Editor, Glamour; Joyce Rutter Kaye, Editor, Print; David Granger, Editor, Esquire?; Moisés Naím, Editor, Foreign Policy; Jay Stowe, Editor, Cincinnati; Ted Genoways, Editor, Virginia Quarterly Review; Mark Strauss, Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Name: Adam Moss
Position: Editor, New York
Resumé: Esquire/7Days/The New York Times Magazine/New York
Birthdate: Almost exactly one half-century ago
Hometown: New York
Education: Oberlin College, B.A.
Marital status: Single, legally speaking. But more or less married.
First section of the Sunday Times: Front page
Favorite television show: Friday Night Lights, plus the usual HBO stuff
Guilty pleasure: I feel guilty about all my pleasures. I'm Jewish.
Last book read: The Yiddish Policeman's Union
2007 nominations: Seven (General Excellence, Public Interest, Profile Writing, Magazine Section, Design, Interactive Service, Interactive Feature)


You have the most nominations of any magazine this year. How does it feel?
Well, it would feel wonderful if that were true. It still feels pretty wonderful that we were tied for second with Esquire. The most went to ... The New Yorker. Which, I guess, leads to your next question.

Do you ever say to yourself, "Eat it, David Remnick"?
Um no. Do you?

Speaking of, what is your relationship like with The New Yorker. Do you feel you compete with them directly? Is it like the Mets-Yankees?

My relationship to The New Yorker is mostly one of a very satisfied subscriber. It's a great magazine. But, we hardly compete with them at all. They're pretty much about New York in name only. But I'm sure we would whup them in an interleague game.

What do you think of your Ellies chances?
I can't even guess. I'm just happy that ASME recognized us pretty much across the board. For general excellence, which for starters honors the whole staff. But, also public interest, and profile writing, and magazine section, and design and two of the three Web categories. Everybody here can feel pretty good about how we did, and I think everybody does. We try to do a lot of things around here, and I'm just glad our peers don't feel we're screwing too many of them up.


"In deference to Anna Wintour, I'm trying not to say 'blog.'"


What's the biggest challenge of your job as an editor?
Focus. Thinking beyond the next issue or even the next day. On a weekly, everything comes at you pretty fast.

Take us through a typical day in the life as New York's editor. (be specific if you can -- "Wake up @ 8:30, watch the Today show," etc....)
I wake up a lot earlier than that (7am? 6:30am? I don't do that on purpose, I just can't sleep like I used to), grab a a cup of coffee and read everything I can (on paper and online) as quickly as I can. I go to work around 9:30am. I sit in a lot of meetings. I make everyone else sit in lots of meetings, for which they resent me. Then, I go home around 8pm or so most days (11pm on closing nights; 6pm or so on Fridays). Everything between that is a blur. But, the issues seem to come out.

How do you feel about the state of the industry?
It's obviously a complicated time, as most of us have to learn to be bilingual in print and the Web, at least. The advertising industry, which pays most of our bills, is especially enamored of the Web these days, which means we'd be foolish not to spend more and more of our time trying to do what we do in an online form. But, of course, the Web is a much different medium.

That's what's interesting to me about working in this business at this moment -- the opportunity to take the things magazines have always done, like telling stories and delivering smartly filtered information, and translating that to a medium with moving pictures and sound, instant response, sophisticated sorting tools, and a totally different relationship with the reader, who has almost as much control over your site as you do. I'm not saying anything new here.

But, I'm especially loving how primitive and even forgiving the Web still is. You can try anything, and if it doesn't work, you just take it down and try something else (you just have to avoid a mocking comment or two on someone else's site). Among other things, the Web part of this job is really fun. And, all of this is not to say that I think print is going away. What print magazines are for will change, but if each arena is managed correctly and differently, print and the Web can both thrive.

A lot of magazines are currently trying to figure out the Web. You guys were nominated for a Web-only award. Do you feel you are any closer to "figuring it out"?
God, no. Whatever anyone figures out on the Web has to be figured out all over again every six months.

What's the next step for New York? What's the next step for you personally?
We've just launched something called Vulture on our site, which is a daily entertainment micro-magazine (in deference to Anna Wintour, I'm trying not to say blog). Also, a daily entertainment newsletter called Agenda, tailored to different tastes (populist, indie, etc.) You should check them out. And, we have a whole mess more to launch online as fast as we can turn it out. We're tinkering with a few new standing features for the magazine, and then next year is our 40th anniversary, which we plan to exploit in as shameless a manner as every other magazine. Then, we have an issue a week to put out. The next step for me, personally, is to go home and take a nap.

Finally, what will you be wearing to the Ellies?
Whatever still fits. Which most definitely limits my options.


[Dylan Stableford is mediabistro.com's managing editor, media news. He can be reached at dylan AT mediabistro DOT com.]

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