Former Hearst editor John Mack Carter died Friday at his home in Bronxville, N.Y. Carter, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was 86.
Carter spent six decades in magazines, and helped shape a new agenda for women’s titles in a pre-feminist era as the editor of McCall’s, then Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping.
Case in point: In the early Seventies, a group of women stormed Carter’s office at Ladies’ Home Journal and held him hostage for 11 hours as they “demanded and negotiated changes in the magazine,” according to Hearst.
The widely-publicized event influenced the editor to take magazines in a direction that would reflect women’s changing roles and needs in society.
“There was more discrimination than I thought,” he later said. “I didn’t push our women readers far enough in their self-awareness.”
In another interview he stated: “Power is the big issue that divides men and women. Men hold power, women want power, but men are reluctant to give it—any of it—away.” Carter became one of the first male members of the Association for Women in Communications. His work and passion for women’s issues carried beyond his work as an editor and he spoke out on issues ranging from equal rights to sexual harassment.
“John Mack Carter was a giant in our industry,” said Steven Swartz, president and chief executive officer ofHearst Corp.. “For decades he led some of this country’s most widely read magazines, he mentored a generation of writers and editors, and his hugely successful Good Housekeepinghelped fuel the growth of today’s Hearst Corporation.”
“John Mack Carter was one of the most successful and influential editors of his time,” said William Hearst III, chairman of Hearst. “He was a leader in every aspect of the business and he will be missed by the entire Hearst family.”
Frank Bennack Jr. executive vice chairman and former ceo of Hearst Corp. underscored Mack’s ingenuity in bringing in new readers and “invigorating” Good Housekeeping.
“Along with modernizing its content, he had a solution in 1975 that is today’s industry standard: Put celebrities on the cover. The idea was revolutionary at the time and massive, immediate circulation growth followed,” Bennack noted. “His vision and leadership played an important role in the growth of this company. We will all miss John Mack’s unparalleled passion—and most of all, his friendship.”
Following his tenure at Good Housekeeping from 1975 to 1994, Carter helped launch new titles as president of Hearst Magazines Enterprises, such as Country Living, Victoria, SmartMoney and Marie Claire. He also mentored talent within the company.
“Over the years, so much of what I came to recognize as the standards for great magazine publishing I learned from John,” offered Gilbert Maurer, director and former chief operating officer. “His knack for perceiving unfilled needs in the marketplace was uncanny. And no one ever wrote a better cover line.”
Carter came to Hearst in 1975 from American Home Publishing Company where he was chairman and editor in chief of American Home magazine. During his tenure at Good Housekeeping, the magazine won two National Magazine Awards in the Personal Service category. In 1989, Carter received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from MPA – The Association of Magazine Media and in 2000, he was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. He served as president of ASME from 1990 to 1992.
In addition to his editorial and executive duties, Carter penned a monthly column on magazines for Adweek for nine years. He also hosted the cable television program, “Good Housekeeping: A Better Way,” and wrote books, such as 1975’s How to Be Outrageously Successful with Women: A Guide to Surviving the Sexual Revolution, with Lois Wyse, and The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Pregnancy and Baby Care (1990).
A Bronxville, N.Y., resident for 47 years, Carter is survived by his wife of 66 years, Sharlyn Reaves Carter; his children, Jonna Carter and John Mack Carter II; son-in-law John R. Low; daughter-in-law Victoria Carter; and four grandchildren, John Mack Carter III, Christina Victoria Carter, Kathleen Elizabeth Carter Low and Christopher Ryan Carter Low. He is also survived by his twin sister, Carolyn Carter Reagan; brother-in-law Johnny Reagan; nieces Jan Reagan Fuqua and Lyn Reagan Ryan; and nephews Danny Grant, David Grant, Dean Grant and Donald Grant.