Vanity Fair issues annual hot-or-not list of media executives


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Time to put away the flowers, booze and pleading phone calls to Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. The magazine’s annual list of the most powerful in entertainment, technology, finance and culture, hits newsstands Thursday and is already on its website. If you’re on it, you can take the rest of the day off. If you’re not, fire your publicity team.

Having worked on these power lists myself, I can tell you placement often has as much to do with legitimate achievements of the executives mentioned as it does the aggressive lobbying of their staff and the whims of the magazine’s editor.


But they do make for good reading and eye-rolling. At the top of Vanity Fair’s 16th annual ‘New Establishment’ list is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, followed by Apple chief Steve Jobs and Google big shots Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is the highest-ranking traditional media executive on the list.

Figuring out who is placed where and why is mind-boggling. For example, Charlie Rose, a TV host best known for his PBS program, is rated as more powerful than CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves and Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman. Let’s see, Rose has a highbrow TV show that few watch, while Moonves and Dauman operate major media conglomerates whose influence is felt worldwide. Of course, Rose does make good conversation at cocktail parties and his girlfriend is the high-powered New York socialite head of New York City’s Department of City Planning.

Let’s hope the list doesn’t cause tension inside companies where one executive makes the cut and another doesn’t. For example, George Bodenheimer, who runs Disney’s ESPN empire, is ranked 32 on the list, while Anne Sweeney, who runs the rest of Disney’s TV operations and shares the same title as Bodenheimer, is nowhere to be found.

Not on this year’s list is NBC Universal Chief Jeff Zucker, who was ranked 61 last year. No doubt Comcast’s proposed deal to take control of NBC Universal, which has cast a cloud over Zucker’s long-term future with the entertainment conglomerate played a part in that decision. And if you are curious, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts came in at 21. Also off the list is ‘American Idol’ creator Simon Fuller.

The list is about cultural standing as much as it is about real power and influence. How else to explain the inclusion of ‘Mad Men’ creator Matt Weiner and two other writers from the show, which has a tiny audience by even cable’s standards but is a critical darling?

Vanity Fair’s list may be one of the few that still is in awe of print. Both New York Times Editor Bill Keller and Wall Street Journal Editor Robert Thomson are among the top 30. Also on the list is Jann Wenner, who runs Vanity Fair competitor Rolling Stone. But Vanity Fair takes a shot at Wenner, noting the magazine’s decision not to put its controversial story about Gen. Stanley McChrystal on its website. Some media critics, Vanity Fair said, complained that ‘Wenner still doesn’t get how the Internet works.’


Hmmm. I’m reading Vanity Fair’s list for free on its website while Wenner wanted to hold off on publishing Rolling Stone’s big story online perhaps so as not to cannibalize his print edition, which people pay for. Sounds to me like he understands exactly how the Internet works.

-- Joe Flint