By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 18, 2006
A former Time editor and writer who became a speechwriter for onetime Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley was named to the magazine's top job yesterday.
Richard Stengel, who has run Time's national and culture departments and was editor of its Web site, said he won the managing editor's job in part because he was approached late in the selection process, making him "like the new girl at the dance."
Stengel succeeds Jim Kelly, who was promoted to the corporate job of Time Inc.'s managing editor by John Huey, who oversees all the company's magazines as editor in chief.
Stengel, 51, said that he sees Time, the top-selling newsmagazine, as "a guide through the media chaos" and that he hopes to hire and develop more "star writers" in the mold of columnist Joe Klein. As a "writer's editor," he said, "I'd like us to have a stronger point of view about things."
Stengel, who played on the 1975 Princeton basketball team that won the National Invitational Tournament -- though not, he admits, as a starter -- said Bradley was "my idol from the time I was 9 years old" and that he was not a Democratic partisan. He described himself as "a flaming moderate."
Stengel said he never expected to become managing editor because of Time's "fairly hierarchical structure," but that once he began discussions with Huey, it was clear that "we saw things in a similar way." He said Time, like other publications, must figure out how to make money with a leaner staff.
Stengel did three different stints at Time, beginning in 1981. After one of his departures in 1993, Stengel, who is married to Mary Pfaff, a South African, collaborated with Nelson Mandela on his autobiography.
Since 2004, Stengel has been president of the National Constitution Center, a museum and think tank in Philadelphia. He has written for the New York Times, New Yorker and New Republic and is also the author of "You're Too Kind: A Brief History of Flattery."