Human Events is playing a game of musical chairs in its editorial department. Jason Materra, who came on board in April 2010, is out and Cathy Taylor, an op-ed writer at the Orange County Register, is in. Materra, the infamous ambusher, isn’t leaving Human Events. But he has been on his way out of his role as Editor for quite sometime as an outside recruiter has been slowly but methodically conducting a nationwide search for his replacement. Oddly, Materra, who is working on a new book called Hollywood Hypocrites, knew this was coming — higher-ups sensed he wasn’t a good fit for the top spot and told him so. Several inside sources say he wept over the news in an office meeting in early 2011. Brass swears it never happened and say those who may want to stick it to him are lying. By and large, employees are not surprised or upset about Materra switching roles. Furthermore, they don’t really care about his departure from the top role and some wouldn’t mind if he left altogether. As it was explained to FBDC, “He’s in a position where his talents are not being used properly. He should be in a role where he can roam around and do videos and the stuff he is known for. So there is a mismatch between the position and skill set.” So as Materra shifts into his new role after a recent surge of attention surrounding his dust-up with V.P. Biden, we spoke with his boss, Eagle Publishing’s VP and Group Publisher Joe Guerriero by phone Thursday morning. He was in a busy, noisy Manhattan hotel lobby, but stepped out into the street (car horns, traffic, etc..) to find some quiet and chat about the company shuffle. In his past…Prior to Eagle Publishing, Guerriero worked at Success as Publisher and Senior V.P. Before that he was the head of sales and marketing at Billboard Magazine. A Bronx native, he was a Catholic schoolboy who graduated from Mount St. Michael High School and Manhattanville College, where he taught for a few years. In 1982 he began his career selling advertising in the medical business followed by a decade at Crain Communications. For more on Guerriero, read Politico Patrick Gavin’s story from earlier in the week in which he breaks the news of Materra’s in-house move.
1. How did you first meet Jason Materra? I met Jason after during 2010 CPAC. I had read a galley of his book Obama Zombies. I thought it was really well done, pretty expensively researched.
2. How did you come to hire him as Editor of Human Events? We had been looking to make a change [with] the editor position. But there was really nobody that was really emerging as terrific. Here is a talented, charismatic, young guy. Let’s give him a shot. We knew we were taking a chance putting him in this position. Is he really enjoying himself? It was clear that it wasn’t singing to him.
3. When did you realize that it wasn’t, as you say, singing for him? There was no moment really. There was no defining moment. I said, ‘Do you want to be a star in the conservative movement or do you want to be an editor?’ Basically he was enjoying the radio show and working on his book so much. I would always say, ‘Are you sure you want to be doing this, chained to your desk?’ He was honest. We were like, we love you, we want to support your career. I have weekly one-on-ones with all my staff [to discuss their lives and careers]. We determined right now that he needs to be doing books and TV and not building an editorial operation that we need to be competitive. There was no animus, no bad feelings.
4. Several sources have said they saw Jason cry about the news when it was first brought up to him earlier in the year. What do you make of that? Not once have I see him come close to shedding a tear. Whoever you’re speaking with clearly has a bone to pick. Jason is from Brooklyn. He’s not going to cry.
5. Tell me about the search to replace him. We had a number of people in and out of D.C. We had a recruiter out of New York handle the search. The search itself started with about 40 to 42 candidates in the U.S. and UK. Some were eliminated immediately. We got it down to five candidates. [Guerrriero suddenly returns to the previous question on Jason crying.] “If you just thought about it for a minute, it’s comical. I happen to love the person who would say something like that too.”
Bonus Q: Was Cathy the clear pick? She was number 1. The 1a was not from D.C. and had just relocated their family, and were not wanting to relocate their family. We had excellent candidates. I’d say she wasn’t our top choice from the beginning [but emerged as 1 in the end.]
More on Materra’s ambush techniques after the jump as Guerriero compares him to the Beatles…yes, you read that right, The BEATLES…
Bonus Q #2: What do you think about Jason’s ambush technique? I think there’s a place for it in journalism. I just remember when the last guy you’d want showing up at your office was Mike Wallace from “60 Minutes.” I really struggle to know what the difference is. Mike Wallace did it for years. The reality is it’s something that Jason does well. Because he has been tied behind a desk, he wasn’t able to do it much. I think he’s far more than a one-trick pony.
How so? Maybe that’s his way to gain some attention and visibility. The Beatles started with “I want to hold your hand” and they did so much more. There’s a lot more to Jason. I think he has the ability to crystalize a story so people can understand it. There is a lot to like about Jason. I hope his career will keep him with Human Events, but Fox could call him tomorrow and offer him a show. We want him to be in our universe as long as he wants to be in our universe.
What did you think of his interaction with Biden? I thought he, Biden, came across as very aggressive, the finger pointing, the almost poke. Even the Washington Post said Biden had all the facts wrong. I give him the credit for taking the opportunity and taking advantage of it. He didn’t seem disrespectful to the Vice President. I thought it was interesting how they wanted to do an investigation on Materra and they walked it back.
Shifting gears, who are you supporting for President for 2012? I have no clue. It’s just a shame to watch our guys beat each other up and send some bloodied guy into battle with President Obama. For better or worse whoever happens to be in control is responsible. I say right now we stand a good shot. If Obama does get reelected we stand to make out with our books.