After 25 years under Graydon Carter’s editorship, Vanity Fair finally got some new blood in December.
Radhika Jones took the helm a little more than a month ago, but it will take several issues to see her impact. Jones’ name will be on the masthead, and her editor’s letter will feature her picture in lieu of Carter’s decades old one, in the March issue. But since articles are assigned many months in advance, much of the March issue was already in the works before Carter left. A spokesperson for Vanity Fair said it will be more of a transition issue, and it won’t be until April that Jones’ DNA starts to infuse the magazine.
As for what that DNA will be, it remains a question mark. But temperamentally, Jones, a surprise but popular pick, appears to be a big departure from Carter. Where Carter was a showman, Jones has spent her career as a more behind-the-scenes editor. She has a rather bookish past — she came to Vanity Fair from The New York Times, where she was the editorial director of the books department. Prior to that, she was deputy managing editor at Time magazine, and was an editor at intellectual heavyweights such as Artforum and The Paris Review. Also tellingly, she has a rather unique qualification to lead a major magazine — a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Columbia University.
“In Radhika, we are so proud to have a fearless and brilliant editor whose intelligence and curiosity will define the future of Vanity Fair in the years to come,” Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor in chief of Vogue, said in revealing Jones’ appointment.
Still, her arrival already stirred controversy when some staffers snipped at her rather “bookish” fashion sense, particularly a pair of fox-patterned tights she wore for her first meeting with the VF staff. Their focus on Jones’ sartorial style rather than her accomplishments became the target of negative feedback from media observers — and riposte from Wintour, who gave every guest at a welcoming party for Jones either a pair of fox-patterned tights or socks.
But while some things are certainly changing at the title, others remain the same — especially when it comes to presidential scrutiny.
Between Christmas and New Year’s, an ill-advised video of jokey advice for former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton from Vanity Fair’s The Hive came under fire from both the left and the right for including the suggestion that Clinton take up knitting. The brief scandal was given a higher profile when President Trump made it the topic of one of his many Twitter outbursts.
Trump, a longtime foe of Carter, seemed out of touch with the latest Condé news when he attacked editorial director Wintour rather than Carter’s successor — although Wintour is a well-known and avid supporter of the Clintons.
While the specifics of Vanity Fair’s future remain — until April — an open question, it is still not a complete unknown. (Still unknown is whether Jones will change the magazine’s tone. How sharply will she cut the magazine’s lengthy roster of contributors, considering her first order of business is understood to be deep budget reductions? Will she expand the books page? What will the Oscars party look like?)
The same can’t be said of Glamour, which has yet to name a new editor in chief.
Cindi Leive, who revealed her intention to step down shortly after Carter did his, is sticking around — though not for long. Her last day is Jan. 19, but, as of this week, no replacement has been named. Names bandied around have ranged from the obvious — Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth — to the surprising — Lena Dunham and Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine — to the unlikely — Instagram’s Eva Chen and The Cut’s Stella Bugbee.
Still, no matter who becomes the new editor in chief of Glamour, one thing that seems like a sure bet is that the magazine — even as it reduces frequency to only 11 issues this year — will continue to lean in to its socially conscious, female empowerment identity.