Shafer’s Take On ‘Kindbrenner’

Jack Shafer today takes a look at the challenges facing new Atlantic editor James Bennet–mainly, living with his boss.

“If it doesn’t give you an aneurysm, think of [owner David Bradley] as the good Steinbrenner, a sort of ‘Kindbrenner.’ Bradley is decent where Steinbrenner is foul and angelic where Steinbrenner is wicked, but in recruiting and assembling a team largely of his own choosing since Kelly stepped down, he’s pulled a Steinbrenner. In journalism, recruiting the staff is a job that usually goes to the editor, so the helm Bennet assumes is a level lower than ordinary. By Bradley’s design, Bennet is less a conceiver of the magazine than an executer of Bradley’s vision, and therein lies the trouble,” Shafer opines.

“When Bradley told the Times that in Bennet he found somebody who was still in his ‘vertical hour’–that his career was still climbing–he was also confessing that he had had it with somebody [like former editor Michael Kelly] whose Atlantic profile eclipsed his. Nothing makes Steinbrenner madder than when Joe Torre gets credit that Steinbrenner believes is his.”

Pointing out Bradley’s “tendency for tendentious wonkery,” Shafer adds an ominous warning for the magazine and Bennet: “Having divorced itself from Boston, the Atlantic threatens to become another Washington wonk magazine…. Bennet will have to stay up late at night fending off Bradley’s affinity for such high-mindedness.”

Let’s hope that someone bought Bennet a pile of candles and a Costco-sized bag of coffee for those late nights.