WHO OR WHAT? A year after Barack Obama immediately aced the test, a panel debating Time magazine’s Person of the Year on Thursday night struggled to even personify their two largest stories of 2009: Twitter and the economy. In an attempt to tie the two themes together, Barbara Walters said the microblogging service “represents the one thing that America still has and that’s innovation.” Though the ABC News fixture also advised, “If you want buzz, I’d pick [Bernie] Madoff.” O magazine editor-at-large Gayle King pointed out that Twitter, cofounded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, had acted as a new lens on events such as the Iranian election. TV health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz agreed and said he used Twitter mostly as a means of collecting information, then casually dropped that he had 100,000 followers. The votes largely broke between those who tweet and those who do not. Restaurateur and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio advocated for an economy-centric pick, such as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke or Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, but added, “If you’re sitting in one of my restaurants, feel free to Twitter to 100,000 people.” Co-moderator and 2001 Person of the Year Rudy Giuliani cast his final vote for Bernanke and said he could not choose a Twitter-themed pick for the Dec. 18 issue if he did not know how to use the service. “I’m going to pull out my iPhone, and you’re going to show me how to do it,” the former mayor told Time managing editor and fellow moderator Richard Stengel. Though his pick went the other way, Giuliani couldn’t resist riffing on social network overshare. “I wish we had tweeting and e-mail when I was a prosecutor,” the one-time U.S. Attorney said.
— Matthew Lynch
CHANGES IN JAPAN: Kazuhiro Saito, president of Condé Nast Publications Japan, will resign from his post at the end of this year, marking a significant management shift for the company that publishes Vogue Nippon, GQ Japan and the biannual Vogue Hommes Japan. The company said Jun Kitada, vice president and publisher of Vogue Nippon and GQ Japan, will succeed Saito as of Jan. 1.
Saito, a charismatic figure with a loyal staff following, joined Condé Nast in 2001 after working as the editor and publisher of Japan’s Brutus and Casa Brutus magazines. During most of his tenure, he also acted as editor in chief of both Vogue Nippon and GQ before delegating those roles to others last year. Earlier this year, Condé Nast International decided not to proceed with the planned launch of Glamour Japan amid poor market conditions.
Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International, praised Saito: “More than anything else, Mr. Saito has been a wonderful ambassador for the company and our magazines in Japan and around the world,” he said.
Saito said he’s always considered himself to be more of an editor than a manager, and Condé Nast wanted to bring in a figure with a more formal managerial background. He said his strong personal ties to his employees made it particularly difficult for him to lay off about 25 percent of the company’s staff, or about 25 people, since the start of the global economic crisis last year. Saito said he’s taking a break for now and mulling his job prospects. “I do editing and not management,” he concluded.
Kitada joined Condé Nast Japan in 1998, the year it was established, was named ad director of Vogue in 2001 and given responsibility for Vogue three years later. He assumed his current role last year.
— Amanda Kaiser
TATTLE TALES: Magazine-sponsored parties are rare these days, but Tatler has been throwing them both here and abroad to celebrate its 300th birthday, a feat that seems miraculous given the state of print these days. After a London bash in October, the title threw yet another one at Diane von Furstenberg’s Meatpacking District studio in New York on Thursday. Among the revelers: Martha Stewart, Harvey Weinstein and wife Georgina Chapman, Candace Bushnell, Nora Ephron, Tory Burch, Zac Posen, David Lauren and Lauren Bush, Vogue’s Grace Coddington, Vanity Fair’s Michael Roberts and Marie Claire editor in chief Joanna Coles.
— Stephanie D. Smith
SPITFIRE: Eliot Spitzer appears to be back in fashion. Aside from penning a Slate column and exercising his opinions for public consumption on TV, the displaced governor sounded off Thursday at Harvard’s ethics center though his tale, “From Ayn Rand to Ken Feinberg — How Quickly the Paradigm Shifts. What Should Be the Rationale for Government Participation in the Market?” was not a moral one. Tonight, the 50-year-old will be back at it, participating in the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “Obama’s Economic Policies Are Working Effectively.” Spitzer will be speaking against the motion with Allan Meltzer and James K. Galbraith. Spitzer’s team will face off against Steve Rattner, Mark Zandi and Lawrence Mishel. At the NYU Skirball Center event, ABC News “Nightline” correspondent John Donvan will keep everyone in check as moderator.
— Rosemary Feitelberg
GREEN WITH ENVY?: The Marie Claire Group said it plans to launch a new weekly fashion title, Envy, slated to hit French newsstands early next year and targeting women in their thirties. Competition is heating up among French fashion weeklies, following the September launch of Mondadori’s Grazia as a competitor to the Lagardere-owned title Elle. Details about Envy, including the cover price, have yet to be disclosed. Grazia already cut its cover price of 1.50 euros to 1 euro, while Elle went from selling at 2.50 euros down to 1.80 euros. Marie Claire’s new title comes during gloomy economic times for magazines battling to court advertisers and garner new readers.
— Natasha Montrose