When Emily Gordon was let go from her position as editor-in-chief of design magazine Print last week after just over a year at the helm, it came as a surprise to her staff, the magazine’s readers and the design community. But no one was more surprised than Gordon herself, especially when she read the job description the magazine’s publisher, F+W Media, posted for her replacement.
“They’ve eliminated my job,” Gordon explained, since F+W is now seeking a “content director” to lead the magazine, emphasizing multichannel content providing over the traditional editorial role. “If it took getting rid of me for them to understand that content management is the most important thing for the future of Print, and if Print can survive, then I think it’s worth the sacrifice. But I think I could have done it just as well.”
Gordon, who was promoted to editor-in-chief from senior editor in the fall of 2008, said she was puzzled by the implication in comments made by F+W Media president David Blansfield to Folio magazine that she wasn’t able to take the Print brand beyond print. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work with a new leader of the brand — someone who embraces the idea of multiplatform first and wants to inform and grow our design community,” Blansfield told the industry trade last week.
As co-creator of The Nation‘s Web site in the mid-90′s and founder of Emdashes.com, a popular New Yorker-centric blog, Gordon has worked in both print and the Web for years. She’s also moderating a panel at this year’s SXSW on blogging versus microblogs, illustrating that she has a pretty good handle on the Web and its challenges. “I have not had a conversation where anyone sat down with me and said, ‘You know, you’ve been editor-in-chief of the magazine, but this is where we see your job going,’” she told FishbowlNY. “My 2010 plans for Print were all about content management. To say that I am print-centric is silly. I’ve had my feet in both camps for 17 years. This is more evidence of the fact that upper management [at F+W] doesn’t have the time to spend surveying their staff assets.”
To Gordon, her inability to live up to F+W’s expectations was not for lack of trying or ability. The company is just too geographically and ideologically disparate, spread out among offices across the country operating publications covering everything from writing and design to horticulture and firearms. And while the five-person staff at Print tried to put out the magazine while also working to create a Web site design fans would love and produce monthly, design-themed paid webinars, F+W never hired someone specifically devoted to managing content or audience development for the magazine — a position that could act as a go-between for Gordon, Print‘s publisher and F+W’s upper management — so good ideas went unexecuted. “The company does not lack for talent or initiative but it just doesn’t invest in it,” Gordon said.
For now, Gordon says she’ll remain a friend of Print, helping prepare for its 70th anniversary later this year and just last week completing its application for the ASME National Magazine Awards. Last year, the publication won an Ellie for general excellence for magazines under 100,000 circulation for the second year in a row. (That’s a picture of Gordon accepting the award above.) FishbowlNY got our hands on Gordon’s acceptance speech from last year and we think it’s an interesting read given what’s transpired since.
Her Ellie speech, after the jump
Related: Multichannel-Bent Publishers Give Longtime Print Staffers the Cold Shoulder –Folio, Editor Out, F+W Looks to Expand Role at Print –Folio, Is Print Next To Fold? –UnBeige