Updated 'New Yorker' up to scratch

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The Independent Online
NEW YORK - An audible sigh of relief could be heard across literary New York yesterday when the first issue of the New Yorker magazine bearing the imprint of its new editor, Tina Brown, reached the newsstands, writes Leonard Doyle.

Fears that the 38-year-old British editor would wreck the venerable institution, known for its long-winded articles and rapier- like cartoons, proved unfounded. What she has done, however, is to blow away some of the cobwebs which have made the magazine increasingly unreadable.

Her changes - splashes of colour, fewer lines to a page, a comment section and even a humorous feature on the back page - are revolutionary by the standards of the New Yorker, which has hardly changed a whit in its 67 years of existence. To the horror of the old guard, and the delight of its profit-minded owners, Ms Brown has doubled the number of advertisement pages to 85. A few years ago full-page advertisements were unheard-of and colour was quite unthinkable.

The last change of editor was in 1986 when Robert Gottlieb took over. Such was the outrage at an outsider being brought in that 143 writers sent a protest letter to the New Yorker's owners, Newhouse publications. Mr Gottlieb, who had previously run the publishing house Alfred Knopf, did little to alter the style of the magazine, except to publish slightly fewer very long articles, and he was quickly seen as a defender of the magazine's stuck-in-the-mud writing style.

A cartoon in Mr Gottlieb's final issue of the magazine held a portent of what might be in store for many of its writers. It depicted an executive emerging from his office with a look of satisfaction, saying: 'Aaah . . . the smell of fresh- mown employees.'

Ms Brown has already taken the axe to some staff members and has brought with her a number of high-profile writers from Vanity Fair, where the emphasis was never far from glitz and glamour, with a dash of high politics thrown in.

For the New Yorker's signature section 'The Talk of The Town', penned by the mythical and monocled Eustace Tilley, Ms Brown has recruited Alexander Chancellor, editor of the Independent Magazine and author of its column of musings signed The Weasel. New York cafe society is waiting with interest to see what thoughts The Weasel will have upon making the transatlantic crossing at the end of October.