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New York Editor Adam Moss Talks Magazine Publishing, Cosby Cover Story

New York Magazine Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss, left, talks with Writing, Literature, and Publishing faculty member Benoit Denizet-Lewis during a WLP Publishing Series talk, “Magazine Editing in the Big Leagues,” held March 14 at the Paramount Center.  Photo/Emily Theytaz

New York Magazine Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss talked about the future of print journalism, the value of social media, and what makes a great New York writer in a conversation with Emerson College faculty member Benoit Denizet-Lewis on March 14 in the Paramount Center.

During his talk, “Magazine Editing in the Big Leagues,” which was part of the WLP Publishing Series, Moss shared his experiences working as an editor for one of the most popular magazines in the United States with a crowd of more than 100 Emerson community members.

Adam Moss has been the editor-in-chief of New York Magazine since 2004, and in that time, the magazine has won more National Magazine Awards than any other magazine. Before becoming New York’s editor, Moss was the managing editor at the New York Times Magazine, where he oversaw the Book Review, Culture, and Style sections. His previous jobs include working at Esquire, 7 Days, and Rolling Stone.

Denizet-Lewis, who wrote for Moss at the New York Times Magazine, kicked off the event by asking Moss about the future of print journalism.

“The future of print is generally a smaller future,” Moss said. “Magazines are incredibly expensive to make and distribute, and, for most, their business model depends a lot on advertising, which has declined in print and made it less feasible to run a magazine.

“However, the audience for journalism has done nothing but grow,” he said. “More people want to learn about stuff and there’s a greater audience to be distributed through digital and social media.”

In response to a question on how the magazine is evolving and using social media to its advantage, Moss used as an example one of his favorite New York Magazine cover stories that made headlines this past summer. 

“We came up with a story we were very proud of, which was to tell the [Bill] Cosby [sexual assault allegations] story through the eyes of as many of his accusers as we could assemble together,” Moss said. “We thought this was awfully important story to tell, so we split these women’s stories and put them up one at a time on Twitter and on Instagram. You could get little videos in which they told a snippet in four sentences of their story, and for many people, that was their experience, and that was enough. So we’re learning to have to take our material and slice and dice it in all sorts of different ways to appeal to different people’s reading.”

An audience question from Emma Lukens ’17 prompted Moss to discuss the characteristics he looks for in prospective writers and editors.

“I don’t want anyone who wants any old job,” Moss said. “I want someone who wants to be working for me, and I want to feel their passions. They have to be able to inhabit the sensibility of the magazine, which is even more important than skill. You have to be smart, curious, and opinionated, but if you can make the reader’s experience better, you’re hired.”

The WLP Publishing Series will continue with a conversation with Oren Teicher, CEO of American Booksellers Association; Jeffrey Mayersohn, owner of Harvard Book Store; and Laura Miller, author of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption, on Thursday, March 17.

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