This week Susan Glasser, Editor-in-Chief of Foreign Policy Magazine for the past three years, dropped a bombshell on her staff and announced that she was leaving the publication for Politico, where she will head up a longform magazine-style writing department that will reportedly cost Publisher Robert Allbritton a good chunk of change. In recent weeks, FP has lost top writers like Josh Rogin to The Daily Beast and Kevin Baron to Atlantic‘s new Defense One. What’s more, the mag recently parted ways (amicably, we’re told) with Ed Diller, the publisher, as did the sales rep he brought over from the WSJ.
An FP source explained to FishbowlDC, “Ed was based on the West Coast, the other rep in NYC, and they were both extremely talented and good at their jobs. It just made sense for FP to redouble its efforts at its headquarters here in DC, and so that’s what happened. It certainly isn’t a reflection on their abilities and they both left the company on good terms.”
Sources tell us Rogin and Baron also left on good terms. “Baron is an excellent reporter – he was well-liked by his colleagues, he broke stories, worked his ass off, and did everything he was supposed to do. He may be able to provide more context regarding his departure. Rogin left to take the job at The Daily Beast. It was just a really good opportunity for him, and he’d done a lot here at FP.”
So how does FP CEO David Rothkopf feel about all the changes? Well, we asked him. And it turns out he had a hell of a lot to say.
It can be tough when an Editor-in-Chief leaves or it can be a bright spot, a sense of relief. What was your gut reaction when Susan Glasser told you she was leaving FP for Politico? I have a lot of respect for Susan and all she has accomplished not only at FP but also at the Washington Post. Her contributions to Foreign Policy—bringing it into the Internet Age, if you will—were enormous. But there are also creative cycles within organizations. Sometimes it can be helpful to hit the reset button, reevaluate and embark on the next period of change. This is a 44-year-old company that has gone through a number of such cycles and emerged stronger from each. That is what our intention is now. We have some big changes on the horizon—expanding coverage, new products, deepening the relationship with our readers in important ways—and so this can certainly be seen as a win-win moment. Good for Susan. And the beginning of new, great things for the FP community.
At least some of the staff appeared to be surprised by the news. Were they not given warning about it? This was handled just as it would be in any organization. Susan and I discussed for a couple of weeks. When we decided on what was going to happen we developed a plan to coordinate the messages from FP and Politico to ensure that this was seen as what it was, an amicable change that would begin important new eras at both publications. We then told top staff and made sure everyone in the organization was informed before the news broke publicly. We had a team meeting on Monday and the mood was just what you would hope for—appreciation for Susan and enthusiasm about the great opportunities that lie ahead.
Who will replace Glasser? Does Rothkopf know yet?
Do you know yet who will replace her as Editor-in-Chief?
We have a great team here—terrific bench depth and terrific leadership. We also have some wonderful new hires on the horizon (don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know about them). As for the final structure we embrace, we’re evaluating our options but you can expect an announcement on that in the next couple days.
You’ve had a couple prominent FP reporters leave recently — Rogin and Baron and now Glasser. What do you attribute this to and is it any reflection on what’s happening with the magazine? I think it is more a reflection of the changing nature of the business we are in and of our growth as a company. As you know better than anyone, all media organizations are constantly shifting priorities, adding new talent, launching new careers that head off in other directions. Just look at MediaBistro’s Revolving Door report each day. As you’ll see in the next weeks ahead, FP is also attracting some great new talent and I would be a bit surprised if we’ll even be welcoming back some folks who were here before and are returning. Fifteen years ago, FP was a respected, but rather staid academic journal. (I know, I wrote my first article for FP 16 years ago—one that captured the dull, grey academic approach perfectly.) In the decade and a half in which I have been involved with it as a contributor and later as an informal advisor, then a blogger, columnist and subsequently as CEO, it has become a glossy award-winning magazine and then, after the Washington Post bought it, a world-leading real-time value-added web platform. Now, we are on the verge of the next chapter of change…big ones that we have been working on since my arrival at the company last year. We have dramatically expanded our business and events teams, already introduced new channels like our National Security Channel, and more is coming. And each such change additional and sometimes different talent that help us meet our primary responsibility which is to our readers—which today is over 4 million leaders from business, finance, government, the military and the expert communities worldwide. As POLITICO’s leadership shared in its own comments about Foreign Policy yesterday, it is “a fascinating and indispensable publication in print and online.”
Can you hint at what some of these big changes will be on the horizon in the coming weeks and months that were alluded to in the press release? On the editorial front, you can expect to see more changes at Foreign Policy that support our objective of providing real-time, high value-added coverage of the most important forces that are driving world affairs. That means a greater emphasis on reported news and on analysis from those closest to the issues we cover. It also means a “big tent” approach to foreign policy—recognizing that some of the biggest factors changing the world today don’t come just from the diplomatic, political or military communities but that they are driven by technology, markets, energy, climate and other trends. This will mean new reporters, new channels and new products. Also, while we will continue to provide great coverage of the Middle East and other conflict zones worldwide, we will do what the US government’s foreign policy team is doing and embrace a kind of “strategic rebalancing” or a “pivot” to incorporate better coverage of Asia, emerging powers, and stories of growth and progress as well as those of conflict and risk. We are also dramatically expanding our live content including events on four continents over the next 18 months, major new events in Washington and regular more intimate forums bringing together top leaders here in DC and other capitals worldwide. We will introduce new apps, more interactivity and new graphics to our site, a major site redesign that will launch in the fall, the introduction of new paid content products and a membership model that will allow the readers that depend on us most to get the full range of our services and some new ones for a very reasonable rate. And there are even a few other things that will have to wait for a future conversation. But suffice it to say this is a very exciting moment in the life of this venerable but constantly evolving enterprise. The vision that Don Graham had when he led the Washington Post’s purchase of this company a few years back is one we are both committed to fulfilling and lucky to have the chance to do so.