About Editing

Editors at Work: How Clay Felker Made New York Hot

In the late 1960s, in the early days of New York magazine, Clay Felker was the highest profile editor in America. He had Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, and other star writers, and he seemed to be ahead of the pack on every new idea, every new thing. That ended in 1976 after Felker got overextended and lost New York magazine to Rupert Murdoch. After the fall, one of Felker’s key editors told me what it was like to be there in the early days. He said Felker went to lots of parties and dinners at night and would come in the next morning full of  story ideas. The other editors also had story ideas, but Felker didn’t seem to want to listen. This editor figured out a strategy: He’d ask Felker’s assistant where Felker was going that night. If this editor knew someone also likely to be there, he’d call and suggest that this someone might want to bring up an idea or subject with Felker and mention that lots of people seemed to be talking about it. Sure enough, this editor said, Felker would come in the next morning, telling his editors about this great idea he’d picked up the night before.

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