MOTLEY CRUISING: As WWD first reported Thursday online, Time Inc.’s corporate editor Isolde Motley will leave the company by June, according to well-placed sources at the magazine publisher. A Time Inc. spokeswoman would not comment, but a high-level executive confirmed Thursday that an announcement about Motley’s leaving would be forthcoming. Talk of her departure has been circulating within company headquarters since former editor in chief Norman Pearlstine passed the reins to John Huey at the end of last year.
Motley adopted her third child, Senai, from Ethiopia, a year ago, and is said to want to spend more time with her family. (Last fall, she lost her mother-in-law, the prominent civil rights attorney Constance Baker Motley, who argued 10 cases before the Supreme Court, won nine of them and clerked for Thurgood Marshall.)
Born in Ireland in 1953, Motley emigrated to the U.S. in 1978, and began her tenure at Time Inc. in 1990 by launching Martha Stewart Living with Martha Stewart and Gael Towey. (The three had worked together previously on Stewart’s books at Clarkson Potter.) In 1995, she was tapped as founding editor of This Old House. That same year, during a shake-up of Time Warner executives, she was named to the new position of development editor at Time Inc. Pearlstine made her managing editor of Life magazine in 1997, and corporate editor of Time Inc. in 2000. It is still the highest-ranking editorial job a woman has ever held at the company.
Motley’s crowning achievement as corporate editor has been developing the six-year-old Real Simple, which she has overseen since its earliest issues. Her departure will likely bring about a major restructuring of the editorial reporting order at Time Inc., as executives there divide and reassign her portfolio, which includes Real Simple and In Style. According to several company insiders, it is unlikely that any of her women’s titles will report directly to Huey, who evidently has a long-standing nickname for the women’s magazines at Time Inc. (He is said to call them “the chiffon magazines.”)
Addressing recent reports about a merger of back-office operations for People, Teen People, In Style and Entertainment Weekly, the Time Inc. spokeswoman said, “We’re always looking at the size scope and structure of the company to be most efficient and effective.”
Motley was on vacation this week, and was unavailable for comment, and few of the people who have worked with her through the years would go on the record about her management style, which, off the record, was described repeatedly as “icy” and “tough.” However, Men’s Fitness editor in chief Neal Boulton, who said he was Motley’s editorial design consultant on the relaunch of Food & Wine, did e-mail — unprovoked — to say, “The most striking aspect of Isolde Motley is her sharp judgment and immediate instinct as to what to do next….She knew how to build the best teams, both editorially and visually, because she intuitively understood the importance and interrelation of both disciplines. That’s why nearly all of her launches and relaunches work for the long haul.”
— Sara James
BRIDE OF RADAR: Believe or not, Radar might be on the verge of being brought back to life. Again. Three sources close to the defunct (dormant? pesky?) magazine — which launched in 2003, only to shut down, relaunch in May of last year and fold during the holidays — said that editor in chief Maer Roshan could be close to securing a deal with famously press-shy billionaire Ron Burkle — whose investment group, The Yucaipa Cos. LLC, earlier this week snatched up British jeweler Garrard. One source said Burkle might have a partner in the deal — none other than the family of Jesse Jackson. Reached on his cell phone Thursday evening, Roshan said, “Since the magazine has closed, I’ve spoken to a lot of people about reviving it, but no there is no official plan to restart it as of now.”
— S.J. and Jeff Bercovici
TOWERING ANXIETY: Completion of Hearst’s new corporate headquarters is still several months off, but the details of the relocation plans are already causing agita among many employees. Particularly troubling for some was the news, circulating this week, that several Hearst magazines will not be moving into the Norman Foster-designed tower, which The New Yorker called “a thrilling addition to midtown Manhattan.” Left behind, once the move is completed sometime in the second half of the year, will be Shop Etc., Weekend and Quick & Simple, Hearst’s three newest titles. While this might seem to some an ominous portent for magazines that have yet to establish themselves in their markets, a Hearst spokeswoman presented the exclusions as a simple matter of real-estate reality. “It’s literally a function of space,” she said. “When we made plans for the tower in 2001, the new launches weren’t even a glimmer in our eye. The units and the magazines that won’t be in the tower will still be very close, and will have access to all the amenities” — which include a gym and a theater. The spokeswoman noted that Smartmoney magazine, a joint venture with Dow Jones & Co., will also be housed outside the tower.
Meanwhile, those employees whose magazines will be located inside the new building have a different issue to contend with: loss of walls. The tower’s workspaces will be mostly open-plan, meaning many senior staffers who have enclosed offices in their current locations will trade down to cubicles. “If I didn’t have an office, I would throw a hissyfit,” said one editor who now enjoys private digs, adding that she was only partly kidding. At Seventeen, according to a source, the staff was initially told that everyone with an office now would have one in the new space — only to have that promise rescinded. But no one can say that Hearst isn’t at least trying to prepare its employees for life on the open range. An FAQ on the company’s corporate Web site offers advice on where to hold private conversations, how to deal with increased noise levels and how to “protect our confidential information — such as the layout of future issues — from prying eyes.”
CLAIRVOYANT CRITICISM: Careful readers of the weekly press may wonder how it is that OK consistently manages to review new films before any of its rivals. But extremely careful readers — for instance, those rivals — have already figured it out: OK has been reviewing some movies without actually seeing them.
In recent weeks, the magazine’s film critic, senior editorial assistant Karen Berg, has passed judgment on a number of major studio releases that either weren’t screened for critics or were screened after the deadline of the issues in which they were featured. OK’s editor in chief, Sarah Ivens, confirmed the practice to WWD. “We go to advance screenings of 90 percent of the movies featured in the magazine,” she said in a statement. “Sadly, many do not have screenings in time for our deadline. So our film reviewer thoroughly researches the movies, casts and directors to provide the best preview/service to our readers.”
Asked why OK doesn’t simply label its previews as such — as Us Weekly and Star do — Ivens called it “just a style choice.”
Whatever the spin, the premature reviews are clearly meant to mislead. A review in the March 27 of “She’s the Man,” starring Amanda Bynes, gave the film four stars out of five and declared, “Bynes’ comic talent truly shines … It’s cute, it’s fun and little girls everywhere will love this film.” According to a source in frequent contact with a number of studios, “She’s the Man” was one of the recent films Berg was unable to view, along with “The Shaggy Dog,” “Date Movie” and “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.” The source said the studios were aware of the practice, but tolerated it — perhaps because all of the films “reviewed” this way were awarded three or more stars. In fairness, however, a one- or two-star rating is an extreme rarity for OK review. Noted an editor at a competing publication, “All the magazines are pressured to curve things up a bit, but OK takes it to a new level.”