Adam Moss Earns Editor of the Year for Guiding NY Magazine’s Election Coverage

Donald Trump and Roger Ailes lead to a banner year

For a magazine pushing 50, New York Magazine in 2016 produced some of the most talked-about journalism of the year. The magazine's relentless reporting, playing out with its distinctive narrative voice in print and with blistering speed online, dominated the coverage of two of the year's most massive stories: Roger Ailes' stunning downfall at Fox News and Donald Trump's unlikely rise to the White House.

"We know Trump pretty well," says New York editor Adam Moss, Adweek's Magazine Editor of the Year for 2016. "We've been following him almost the entire history of the magazine." New York was launched in 1968, and put Donald Trump on its cover for the first time in 1980. In the decade that followed, Trump would become a "grandiose comic character," Moss says, and a "perfect character for the magazine," which was distinctly New York-centric. Now, Trump is a global figure, and the magazine's content is consumed worldwide.

Moss arrived at New York in 2004 from The New York Times, and has led a dramatic digital expansion that included the launch of the entertainment vertical Vulture, and the fashion and lifestyle site The Cut. All together, the New York Media sites reported 19.7 million monthly unique visitors in August, up 48 percent versus August 2015—with 80 percent of its digital audience outside the city of New York. "What the internet has done is allow us—and almost forced us—to talk to a much, much wider audience than one can find in New York City itself," Moss says.

In 2016, the magazine had plenty to talk to that audience about. Writer Gabriel Sherman dominated coverage of Roger Ailes, a titanic figure in cable news whose seeming lock on power collapsed in a matter of days amid claims of sexual harassment. "Gabe is just an amazingly good reporter," Moss says. "He had a series of unbelievable news breaks over the course of four weeks. He then carried the story from there through Ailes' ouster."

Sherman's reporting played to the strengths of Moss' magazine, where, as he puts it, "an incredible team" of writers breaks news on social and digital media, and tells richly detailed long-form stories in print. "They stay extremely alert to what is happening in the news, to either do quick and intense responses, or look beyond the moment's news and put things in a larger context," says Moss. It was also a banner year for New York covers—among them, an issue just before Election Day featuring an extreme close-up of Trump's face with "LOSER" emblazoned across it. (The issue was a sell-out on newsstands.) Post-election came the follow up, again sporting a particularly nasty image of the president-elect and the cover line: "How to Live With, For and Against Trump's America."

As Election Day loomed, Moss led his team to explain Trump as Americans prepared to cast their votes. Sherman produced an insider's report on the Trump campaign's final days; Jonathan Chait looked ahead to the Republican Party's "age of authoritarianism," and Frank Rich looked back to history and Charles Lindbergh as a cautionary tale about Republican leaders who "appeased" Trump.

"So you're in the present, you're in the future, you're in the past, and all of it is to try and make sense of any one moment," Moss says. "That's what New York is about, making sense of the now."

Nearly a half-century ago, New York had a single focus: Get good stories into the magazine. Today, Moss leads not just a print product but six different digital publications, and an increasingly productive video unit. "Just in the past few days, we've been publishing an avalanche of material, and it's really great," says the editor, describing the magazine's response to Trump's election. "When you have Jonathan Chait and Andrew Sullivan and Rebecca Traister, there's just a great deal of intellectual firepower."

All of that firepower will follow Trump's move from Trump Tower to the White House, though Moss hasn't entirely figured out how his team will cover President Trump. "Does one cover him as an ordinary president?" he wonders. "It's all so new, we're all trying to figure that out."

The magazine expects 2017 to bring another year of digital revenue growth, and the possibility of more awards for reporting. This year, New York won its first George Polk Award and Online Journalism Award for detailing the allegations of sexual abuse by Bill Cosby, and a multimedia award for an online project that focused on one block in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

"The culture is changing so rapidly, and change is manna to journalists and to a magazine like ours, because we are very devoted to trying to understand change as it happens," Moss says. "It's essentially our mission."

Post-Trump, what does Moss think of that arresting "LOSER" cover? "It does make us cringe a bit," Moss admits, in light of Trump's victory. "We knew it was a risk all along."

But it was just the kind of risk New York loves to take, Moss explains. "It's a complicated cover—in some ways that speaks to its power. It was meant to be read multiple ways: It's Trump speaking, and it's a statement that his candidacy has degraded America and we're all losers."

"We were obviously wrong on the call part, like everybody else," Moss shrugs. "I just hope we were also wrong about the Trump turning America into a hellhole part."

This story first appeared in the November 28, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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This story first appeared in the November 28, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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