The Media Today

The media today: Graydon Carter bids adieu

September 8, 2017

Yesterday afternoon, New York Times readers got a surprising push notification. No, it wasn’t about North Korea missile tests, or Trump’s attacks on the media, or even the hurricanes wreaking havoc in the Caribbean. It said that Graydon Carter, one of the last celebrity editors, was ending his 25-year reign at Vanity Fair in December. The 68-year-old media icon isn’t retiring, reports the NYT, but wants to leave “while the magazine is on top.” His future plans are TBD, but he’ll be taking at least six months off after his grand departure. TL;DR: The “Grexit” is finally here.

The Canada native left America’s neighbor to the North for the Big Apple nearly 40 years ago for a gig at Time magazine. Before long, he channeled his reporting chops and media savvy into his own venture, co-founding the now-defunct satirical publication Spy magazine. He briefly assumed the role of editor at the New York Observer before taking over at Vanity Fair for Tina Brown in 1992.

During his tenure at the magazine, Carter established himself “as a ringmaster of the Hollywood, Washington and Manhattan power elite,” writes Michael Grynbaum in the Times. Vanity Fair became a “mighty media enterprise that mixed hard-edged reporting and epic storytelling with a love of classic Hollywood glamour,” says Lloyd Grove for The Daily Beast. But Carter’s influence extended beyond the news media industry. He established himself as a formidable force in the worlds of politics, finance, literature, and even restauranteering.

Carter also developed a reputation as a mentor to many young journalists. The rare turnover at Vanity Fair reflects the loyalty he inspired over the years. Under his leadership, editorial assistants were able to climb the ranks and become seasoned editors. And, according to Vanity Fair’s David Kamp, Graydon “has always possessed a showman’s charisma, a persuasive ability to make you believe, to use one of his stock lines, that This is the best job you’re ever going to have.”

At least one person is glad to see Carter go: Donald Trump. Long before the 2016 election, Carter positioned himself as one of Trump’s most ardent nemeses. He was the brains behind the irreverent “Trump has small hands” narrative, describing his digits as “small and neatly groomed” in a 1984 profile for GQ. Carter continued getting under Trump’s skin during his time at Spy (R.I.P.). It was there he referred to Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in a mock advertisement of The Art of the Deal.

Carter’s departure signifies the end of an era—as well as the start of a new one. No one knows who will replace him yet, but rumors are swirling around two possibilities. According to the Times, New York magazine editor Adam Moss and The Hollywood Reporter’s Janice Min are the frontrunners. More on Carter’s legacy below.

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Meg Dalton is a freelance journalist and audio producer based in Connecticut. She's reported and edited for CJR, PBS NewsHour, Energy News Network, Architectural Digest, MediaShift, Hearst Connecticut newspapers, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @megdalts. Find her on Twitter @megdalts.