Dana Canedy, Publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Flagship Imprint, Has Left the Job

From a New York Times story by Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter headlined “Dana Canedy, Publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Flagship Imprint, Has Left the Job”:

Dana Canedy, the first Black woman to serve as publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint, left her position after two years, the company said.

The announcement came amid an industrywide push to increase diversity. Several major publishing houses have over the past two years hired and promoted people of color into prominent editorial roles, including Lisa Lucas, the first Black publisher in Pantheon’s 80-year history, and Jamia Wilson, vice president and executive editor at Random House.

Simon & Schuster said that Ms. Canedy was leaving to write a book, a sequel to her 2008 memoir, “A Journal for Jordan, which was about her partner, First Sgt. Charles M. King, and the journal he wrote for their son, Jordan. Mr. King was killed in combat in Iraq in 2006.

Ms. Canedy came to her role at Simon & Schuster in July of 2020 with little publishing experience. She was a journalist at The New York Times for more than 20 years and later served as administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes.

When she joined Simon & Schuster, her appointment was welcomed as a sign that the publishing world, which has long been overwhelmingly white, was taking steps to become more inclusive in its upper ranks. Ms. Canedy said the wider significance of her position made it difficult to leave.

“The issue when you’re ‘the first’ or ‘the only,’ is that to many, you represent an entire industry,” she said. “And I embrace that. However, it made it harder to make a decision that I felt was right for me.”

While Ms. Canedy’s tenure was brief, she had a significant impact on the company.

She brought in Aminda Marqués González, the former executive editor of The Miami Herald, to be Simon & Schuster’s vice president and executive editor, and acquired books by prominent Black journalists and scholars, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, the journalist and editor Errin Haines, and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, a history professor at Rutgers University who specializes in African American women’s history.

But Ms. Canedy also angered and alienated much of her own staff, and drew criticism from liberals, when she signed a deal last April to publish an autobiography by Mike Pence, the former vice president, calling it “the definitive book on one of the most consequential presidencies in American history.”

More than 200 employees signed a petition demanding that the publisher cancel the deal, and were joined by thousands of other writers and publishing professionals. The letter argued that Simon & Schuster’s deal with Pence had broken “the public’s trust in our editorial process, and blatantly contradicted previous public claims in support of Black and other lives made vulnerable by structural oppression,” it said.

Ms. Canedy and Jonathan Karp, Simon & Schuster’s chief executive, stood by the acquisition of Mr. Pence’s book as a crucial account of the Trump presidency, and maintained that publishers should acquire books from across the political spectrum. Ms. Canedy said she would continue to work on titles by Mr. Pence, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Dunbar.

Her departure comes at a tumultuous moment for Simon & Schuster. In the fall of 2020, Simon & Schuster’s parent company, ViacomCBS, struck a deal to sell it to another publishing company, Penguin Random House, but the acquisition has faced intense regulatory scrutiny, and is being challenged in an antitrust lawsuit by the Justice Department. If it goes through, Simon & Schuster will be absorbed into a much bigger rival, and may lose some of its autonomy; if the Justice Department blocks the deal, the company faces even greater uncertainty.

A spokesman for Simon & Schuster said that Mr. Karp, who was formerly the publisher of Simon & Schuster before becoming the chief executive, will “resume being publisher for the foreseeable future” while continuing his work as the head of the company.

Ms. Canedy’s memoir, “A Journal for Jordan,” was adapted into a movie, which was directed by Denzel Washington and released last year. Simon & Schuster said it had acquired the rights to her next book and planned to publish it in 2024. She described the book, tentatively titled “A Journey With Jordan,” as a collection of personal essays about resiliency and reclaiming joy after loss.

Having a movie made about her life was a profound experience, she said.

“I can’t even describe what that’s like,” she said. “Everything from re-enacting the memorial at Arlington Cemetery, to having real soldiers show up and watch this and weep, to having my son learn more about his father through the movie, to having to relive my love story all over again.”

She’s constantly asked, she said, how she’s been able to get through her loss.

“I feel compelled to write that,” she said.

Elizabeth A. Harris writes about books and publishing for The Times.

Alexandra Alter writes about publishing and the literary world. Before joining The Times in 2014, she covered books and culture for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she reported on religion, and the occasional hurricane, for The Miami Herald.

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