Associated Press

Clay Felker, Founder of New York Magazine, Dies at 82

July 02, 2008 03:10 PM
by Rachel Balik
The founding editor of New York magazine, credited with setting a standard in magazine style, has died of throat cancer.

30-Second Summary

After a long battle with throat cancer, Clay Felker died at age 82 on July 1. Felker followed a long career in publishing by spending time as a film industry consultant and a journalism professor.

Called by author Tom Wolfe “the greatest idea man that ever existed,” Felker used his severance pay from the collapse of Herald Tribune-owned New York magazine to buy the name and start his own weekly glossy. With New York magazine, Felker created a style of magazine publication that would be imitated and admired for years to come. 

“The magazine was conceived as a kind of gleeful, fervid, useful weekly chronicle of social and cultural anthropology,” explains author Kurt Anderson in a tribute. According to Anderson, Felker was the first to understand that a magazine about New York needed to tackle questions of status and ambition rather than do straight reporting on day-to-day banalities. 

Felker was also admired for his direct approach and solid instincts. He was especially skilled at guiding writers.  He employed Gloria Steinem in her early year and helped her to start Ms. magazine. She of said of him, “I can think of no other editor who inspires the same combination of creativity, loyalty, and excitement in writers.”

Though adored by the writers that worked for him, he often ruffled the feathers of publishing industry peers. According a 1977 Time magazine profile, “He is variously described by associates and acquaintances as autocratic, devious, dishonest, rapacious, egotistical, power mad, paranoid, a bully and a boor.” The same people also described him as a genius. Ambitious but unlucky in business, even after he was no longer successful in magazine publishing, he was regarded as one of the industry’s greatest visionaries.

Headline Links: ‘Clay S. Felker, 82; Influential Editor of New York Magazine’

Background: Genius and jerk

Opinion & Analysis: Felker as visionary


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