Staid old gent reels at Tina's glitz blitz

EVEN BY New York society standards, it was quite a do. Six hundred of America's brightest and most beautiful squashed into a midtown Manhattan theatre to wish a happy birthday, not to a fellow star, but to a magazine. It was a paradoxical affair: both reverential of a history marked by sobriety and quiet intelligence and unashamedly glamorous and glitzy.

Perhaps it was deliberately so. The publication being celebrated was the New Yorker, which this month turns 70. For decades it was famous as the place that accommodated some of the best but also some of the least obviously accessible of American writing. Capote, Cheever, E B White, Nabokov and Thurber were all contributors. Patrician, urbane, even elitist, but essential reading for the literary-minded from SoHo to Hampstead.

That is its heritage and at least a part of the magazine's character still today. Something new has happened to the New Yorker, however, and all of the publishing world is agog over it. It has taken to running stories about O J Simpson and taking advertisements for men's fragrances that spurt noxious fumes at you if you unfold them. In short, it has become more like the other magazines, more colourful and more concerned with current events.

Is it heresy, or a pragmatic, even brilliant, response to commercial realities? The debate rages and may not be resolved for a long while yet. Whatever the answer, the responsibility for the change lies with the host of the Manhattan party and the editor of the magazine since September 1992, Tina Brown.

Ms Brown, who is British and married to the other British icon of New York, former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans, is underestimated by nobody. As editor of Vanity Fair - owned, like the New Yorker, by publishing magnate S I Newhouse - she was credited with making that magazine the most exciting around, outscoring Vogue and Esquire. Some argue that without dramatic changes at the New Yorker, it would have faded away or folded.

"For good or ill, she remains the definitive magazine character of the moment", says Eric Etheridge, executive editor of the New York Observer, a weekly broadsheet that holds the pulse of sophisticated New York while simultaneously lampooning it. "She has the heat that no one else has."

The main impact of the Brown reign has been to bring the New Yorker into the mainstream fold, he says. "She has wrenched it out of the special place it had lived in for more than 65 years and torn down the wall that always existed between the New Yorker and everything else. She has yoked the magazine more closely to the stories of the moment."

Where nerves have been touched, if not shredded, has been in Ms Brown's perceived fascination not just with current affairs but with showbiz andHollywood. Says William Greider, National Editor of Rolling Stone and former New Yorker contributor: "She has brilliantly enlivened the magazine, but I feel she is in danger of being swallowed up by her own celebrity obsessions. There is a sort of post-modern urbanity about it now, which I find decadent."

Symbolising that change for many were the stories that ranlast summer about the O J Simpson case. If the New Yorker could not resist the O J obsession - generated almost wholly by television and the popular papers - what American magazine could?

The giant birthday issue now on sale contains a feature by a top-class writer - Martin Amis - but the subject of his treatise is the Hollywood resurrection of John Travolta.

The revolution has caused departures from the magazine, many discreet, others less so. Among the noisier exits were those of Garrison Keillor, creator of Lake Wobegone Days, and George Trow, who is one of few to have dared publicly to voice doubts about Ms Brown's suitability for the position. He said in a recent interview: "My formula for here is that she's a great girl wearing the wrong skirt. I mean this is not a job for her."

Also leaving shortly is Charles McGrath, who more than anyone represents the old school and for years was considered the heir-apparent to long- time editor William Shawn. The current issue contains his swan-song, a tribute to the co-founder and first editor the late Harold Ross. (There have only been four editors in 70 years, including Ms Brown.)

Also in this issue is what seems almost an apologia for what has been wrought by Ms Brown, penned by another veteran contributor, Brendan Gill. "The magazine has grown older, as all things must, but it seeks to remain invincibly young in its response to life and, like Lewis Carroll's Father William, is willing to stand on its head, and even to carry off from time to time, perhaps to the alarm of some readers, an unexpected somersault."

Ultimately, no publication can perform gymnastics without commercial health. Since Ms Brown took over, circulation is up 26 per cent and revenue is said to have risen, too. Yet it is rumoured that all that loud (and smelly) advertising is being sold at a heavy discount. Despite Ms Brown's best efforts, the magazine is estimated to be losing at least $1m a month. The patient's prognosis seems improved, then, but far from brilliant.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?