Friday, July 4, 2008

`Cosmopolitan''s Historic `Esquire' Connection

(The following article first appeared in the 9/9/92 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly newspaper, Downtown.)

Although Hearst’s Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Harper’s Bazaar all pose as magazines which express a competing “female” editorial viewpoint to that generally found in magazines like Esquire magazine—which was marketed to 700,000 primarily male subscribers in 1992—Hearst also has owned Esquire magazine, historically.

After briefly attempting to market a new men’s fashion magazine called Men’s Bazaar to compete with Esquire for men readers, Hearst decided it would be more profitable to spend more than $60 million [in 1980s money] to buy the competing publication. And after it purchased Esquire in 1986, Hearst discontinued its publication of Men’s Bazaar.

Coincidentally, six months before Esquire was sold to Hearst, Esquire’s then-chief operating office [CEO] and one of its then-major shareholders—Wilma Jordan—married a top executive in Hearst’s Magazine Division at that time, George Green. And after negotiating the deal to sell Esquire to her new husband’s company, Esquire’s former CEO, coincidentally, received between $6 million and $7 million of the $60 million Hearst dished out to purchase Esquire.

Although in April 1987, Esquire’s then-editor, Lee Eisenberg, told New York magazine that Esquire’s new corporate owner was “uniquely right for us—nonbureaucratic, with no desire to impose a monolithic `Hearst culture,’” by the Fall of 1990, Esquire’s editor was Terry McDonell, not Eisenberg. McDonell was the first Hearst magazine editor-in-chief to be hired by then-Hearst Magazine Division President Bahrenberg. Esquire’s then-managing editor, Ellen Fair, was also shifted out of Hearst’s Esquire office in 1992 and into the managing editor slot of one of Hearst’s women-oriented magazines after 14 years of working for Esquire.

Asked by Downtown in an August 1992 telephone interview if Hearst’s purchase of Esquire had affected the magazine much, the then-editor, Terry McDonell, noted he “wasn’t around” the magazine at the time Hearst purchased it, but “I believe that Hearst had made the magazine more profitable and, editorially, we’ve done well.” The then-Esquire editor asserted that “the magazine is driven by journalism” and not by the special interests of the Hearst Corporation.

Asked by Downtown in 1992 whether he felt being part of the Hearst conglomerate created possible conflicts of interest for Esquire, McDonell replied: “Their interests are those of a media company and we are not a media watchdog publication. And we don’t do articles on women’s magazines, which is what Hearst publishes.”

The then-Esquire editor said he had never experienced interference from the Hearst Corporation or the Hearst family with regard to editorial content and felt no pressure with regard to coverage of the Hearst family. According to McDonell, the only concern of the Hearst Corporation with regard to Esquire magazine was that it continue to be an economically profitable publication. And McDonell felt that—despite its Hearst corporate connection—Esquire still was “very unique” as a magazine.

(Downtown 9/9/92)

Next: Magazines And The Hearst Media Conglomerate In The 1990s

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