Foreign Affairs magazine, the prestigious and weighty journal read around the world by foreign policy specialists in and out of government, is expected to have a new editor soon, perhaps by next month.
The magazine, which is published five times a year by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, has a circulation of more than 100,000. The selection of its editor is an important event for the America foreign policy establishment.
Although the magazine does not publish editorials or take positions on issues, specialists say the selection of articles and authors to appear in Foreign Affairs can have an impact in identifying key issues for public discussion.
William P. Bundy, who has edited the journal since 1972, made it known last fall that he would be retiring. Bundy, who had held senior posts in the departments of State and Defense during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, is only the third editor in the magazine's 61-year history.
Several sources said scores of names submitted by council members have been narrowed down by a special 11-member committee to four candidates:
* James Chace, who has been managing editor for 12 years.
* Leslie H. Gelb, a former official in the departments of Defense and State and now national security correspondent for The New York Times.
* William G. Hyland, a former deputy assistant for national security to President Ford and a former aide to Henry A. Kissinger when Kissinger was national security adviser to President Nixon.
* Stephen S. Rosenfeld, deputy editor of the editorial page for The Washington Post.
Chace, in a telephone interview, acknowledged his interest in the position. Gelb and Hyland were out of town and could not be reached. Rosenfeld said he had no comment.
It could not be determined if any of the four candidates had agreed to accept the job if offered.
The special committee is expected to meet June 2 to decide which candidate to recommend to the council's 24-member board of directors at its meeting June 7. Sources said the board is likely to take action at that meeting, but special committee chairman George S. Franklin said the key concern was to find the right person and more time would be taken if necessary. He declined to confirm that the field had been narrowed to four candidates.
Sources said the special committee also is to review the magazine and perhaps make recommendations on its future. Council members said the magazine and the council have made efforts in recent years to reach out to wider audiences as foreign relations became more complex and more of American society has an impact on foreign policy.
The council, however, remains a bastion of the traditional American foreign policy elite, with several recent secretaries of state coming from the council's ranks and former secretaries returning to its hierarchy.