Jay FieldenEsquire 'Mavericks of Hollywood' party, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 20 Feb 2018

Jay Fielden is the latest magazine veteran to exit Hearst Magazines.

The editor in chief of Esquire, the core men’s title at Hearst, is leaving the role almost immediately, WWD has learned, only remaining to oversee the complete rollout of the just revealed June issue.

There have been murmurs of changes at Esquire and its operations since last year, when new Hearst Magazines president Troy Young started his overhaul. Talk turned to the imminent departure of Fielden in the wake of the publicized late-stage rejection by the publisher of an investigative story on sexual misconduct allegations against the director Bryan Singer that Esquire was initially set to publish. The chatter was renewed after some public blowback for a cover story on a white, politically conservative teen.

Nevertheless, Fielden’s exit is said to be mutual, insofar as both sides are said to have issues with the other. He is possibly going to serve as a contributor to the title going forward, but not in an editor capacity. The move comes just a week after Hearst’s longtime sales and marketing executive Michael Clinton revealed plans to take a big step back into an advisory role and there have been many other changes to the editorial and sales ranks at the publisher. In his less than a year as president, Young has methodically remade much of the core leadership across the business.

Fielden, in an Instagram statement that he posted after WWD first broke the news of his exit, said he will miss “the conversation and debate, the collaboration, the shared life of revisions and deadlines and filling the monthly void.” But he alluded to upcoming projects, like a book he’s started and possibly something media-related of his own.

“I have…felt the lure of new possibilities — all the more so now, as the means of production for a new media venture is basically my laptop,” he wrote. “For me, the time has simply come to press on in a new direction, perhaps more than one, before I get struck by male pattern baldness.”

In addition to his role leading Esquire, Fielden is the editorial director of Town & Country, a position he will also be leaving. He served as editor in chief of T&C beginning in 2011 and took up Esquire in 2016, when the magazines division was still run by David Carey. Fielden succeeded David Granger, who led the title for just shy of 20 years. Before coming over to Hearst, Fielden was editor in chief of Men’s Vogue, closed in 2008, an early casualty in Condé Nast’s troubles.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Hearst wrote that Fielden is “an incredibly talented editor and writer” and confirmed that he will contribute to Esquire and T&C.

“We thank him for his leadership and contributions to Hearst Magazines over the years and wish him the best in his future plans.”

As for Fielden’s successor, there isn’t one in place. Hearst is said to be in the process of vetting candidates. One name said to be in consideration is Richard Dorment, the current editor in chief of Men’s Health, who assumed that role only last year after a stint as senior editor of Wired, a Condé publication. Earlier Dormant had spent nearly a decade as an editor at Esquire under Granger, with his exit timed to Fielden’s take-over.

Another possibility is said to be Greg Veis, who leads the Highline vertical at Huffington Post, which calls itself a magazine despite being digital only. The site focus is on long-form reportage and culture stories, which would fit well with Esquire’s tradition of general interest coverage.

When Fielden landed the top spot at Esquire, he talked of wanting to appeal to women as well as men and use the magazine’s journalistic reputation, mainly built up on New Journalism laurels in the Sixties and Seventies, to showcase fashion. The subject has long been a big topic for the magazine, which has marketed itself as something of a guide to manhood, from how-tos on tying knots and making cocktails to political engagement. Fielden tried to bring back some of the magazine’s lost swagger with a big injection of Hollywood, maybe trying to be something like Graydon Carter’s Vanity Fair. But perhaps leadership at Hearst senses missed opportunities that youth and an ongoing obsession with street style may offer.   

Meanwhile, GQ, Esquire’s rival in the men’s space, has started to skew much younger and with a focus on high and street fashion, complete with a full-blown e-commerce piece — something Esquire has apparently resisted, despite Hearst’s big push into the space. GQ’s new editor in chief Will Welch is focused on expanding the title’s editorial around fashion, as well as athletes and musicians/rappers — there’s more designer advertising to be had at the magazine. With a focus by Young, and Hearst’s chief content officer Kate Lewis, on leveraging data insights (i.e., what gets traffic) for editorial direction and changes, Esquire could soon be getting a youthful, fashion-forward makeover of its own.

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