Ruth Reichl Wonders What It’ll Be Like to Be the Boss of a Magazine

Ruth Reichl on leaving her job as restaurant critic of the New York Times to become editor of Gourmet magazine. This is from her book Save Me the Plums; in this excerpt she is thinking about what it’ll be like to be the boss of an editorial staff.

Gourmet would be different: Nobody wants to gossip with the boss. It must be unpleasant, I thought, to be surrounded by people who are afraid of you.

But even when Trish Hall [former editor of the New York Times dining section] was at her most powerful, she’d never thrown her weight around and never insisted she knew more than you did. She was completely candid about wanting to work with people she could learn from. My first boss, Rosalie Wright, had been much the same. Rosalie is the toughest person I’ve ever met: She bucked enormous pressure to run major investigative articles in New West. When powerful people pulled strings and made threats as they attempted to stop the first negative stories about Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple, she was fearless: “The story’s solid and it’s shocking,” she said, refusing to give in. But Rosalie never pulled rank; if she was alone in the office, she’d take phone messages for you, and she was constantly saying, “You’re the expert. What do you think?” Unlike the men I’d worked for, Rosalie managed to be in charge without being the boss. It came to me that I had excellent role models; I just had to keep them firmly anchored in my mind.

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