Dan Wakeford Named People’s New Editor in Chief, Replacing Jess Cagle

He was previously the magazine's deputy editor

Dan Wakeford has been People's deputy editor since 2015. Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

Dan Wakeford, the deputy editor of People, has been tapped to helm the entertainment news publication a day after longtime editor in chief Jess Cagle announced he would step down at the end of the month.

Wakeford will take charge of the publication effective April 1 and will report directly to Bruce Gersh, the president and executive vice president of People, Entertainment Weekly and People en Español.

“I’m honored to lead the most trusted entertainment brand in the world and continue the tradition of smart and exciting storytelling,” Wakeford said in a statement about his appointment. “I can’t wait to build on this legendary brand’s success, and share People with audiences everywhere.”

Meredith Corp. announced Wakeford’s promotion Thursday after informing staff. The New York Post was first to report Wakeford’s appointment.

Wakeford has spent much of his career in entertainment news but is a relative newcomer to People and its parent company, Meredith Corp. Wakeford worked many years at Bauer Media Group titles, including as editor in chief of the magazines In Touch Weekly and Life & Style Weekly, and he started his career at Heat, a Bauer pop culture title based in London.

He is the first People editor without an extensive background at Time Inc., which Meredith bought in 2017, and is the third consecutive male editor at the female-skewing outlet, following Cagle, who had the job for five years, and Larry Hackett, who took over for Martha Nelson in 2006.

Wakeford joined People as deputy editor in 2015, and has been responsible for overseeing the publication’s royals coverage, service stories and human interest content, along with breaking news coverage. He’s also worked on developing television programming from People’s brand.

“Dan is a forward-thinking executive and a brand builder with a clear vision for People today and in the future,” Gersh wrote in a staff memo announcing Wakeford’s promotion. “He has a sharp understanding of the zeitgeist and is a master storyteller who specializes in cover creation and multiplatform content. Dan has an impeccable track record for shaping the editorial direction and content strategy for some of the largest names in media, and that makes him the ideal choice to lead Meredith’s most profitable brand.”

Wakeford has big shoes to fill. Cagle, who was a figurehead at People since he began working there in the 1980s, is an influential entertainment editor who steered People through an unforgiving media landscape amid industry changes while maintaining a high celebrity profile.

Cagle also served as editorial director of Meredith’s Entertainment Group, which includes titles like Entertainment Weekly and People en Español, but that position has been eliminated with his departure. Entertainment Weekly editor in chief Henry Goldblatt and People en Español editor in chief Armando Correa will report to Gersh going forward, Gersh told staff Thursday.

@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.