Rick Stengel to leave ‘Time’ for U.S. State Department
Richard Stengel, the top editor of Time magazine for the past seven years, is planning to step down as managing editor for a new job at the U.S. Department of State, sources familiar with the situation tell Capital New York and POLITICO.
If confirmed, Stengel will serve as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the role responsible for leading "America's public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs, and U.S. Government efforts to confront ideological support for terrorism," according to the State Department's website.
Senior U.S. officials confirmed that Stengel is in line for the position.
Nancy Gibbs, Time's deputy managing editor, is expected to succeed him, sources said.
A spokesperson for Time declined to comment, as did Stengel. The State Department didn't immediately comment.
In a statement, a senior U.S. official close to Stengel said, “One of the topics Rick focused a great deal on during his seven years as Time’s editor was national service and making the case for why it’s so important. Now he’s taking his own advice and moving on to a senior role at the State Department, where he will have the chance to serve his country. Rick knows the subject matter well, having covered international affairs and interviewed numerous world leaders—including the man in the news today, Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
The timing of the shuffle is unclear, but Stengel has been on a leave of absence from editing the magazine since July, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Stengel's looming exit is the latest sign of disruption at a venerable publisher that has been grappling with leadership changes and financial hardships.
Parent company Time Inc. looks a lot different today from the time Stengel was named managing editor of its flagship title following a long career as a writer and editor there. And perhaps that's why some people familiar with the magazine were not surprised to hear that he plans to move on.
"I think he's looking for something fresh to do, and the magazine's looking for some fresh leadership because it's such a different place now than when he came in," a former Time editor told Capital.
Time Inc. has a new editor-in-chief as of January, and recently welcomed its fourth C.E.O. in three years. The 91-year-old magazine publisher, America's largest, with marquee brands including Time, Fortune, Entertainment Weekly and People, is to be spun off from its parent company, Time Warner, early next year.
As with many media outlets grappling with a difficult advertising environment, Time has faced staff reductions as a result downsizing throughout the company's magazine division. Most recently, six Time employees were offered buyouts in January when Time Inc. sought to reduce its headcount by 500 people. But they're currently on a hiring spree with plans to recruit more than two dozen journalists for a web expansion this fall.
With a combined print and digital circulation of roughly 3.3 million, Time was the 11th largest U.S. consumer magazine as of June, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. But its circulation has declined significantly from the nearly 4.1 million print copies it claimed in June 2006, when Stengel took the helm at age 51. Advertising revenue for the first half of this year clocked in around $159.4 million, down from $295.8 million during the same period in 2006, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
On the digital side, meanwhile, Newsweek alumnus Edward Felsenthal was hired earlier this year to oversee a relaunch of time.com.
At the State Department, Stengel will find himself in the company of other veteran journalists. Last week, as first reported by The Huffington Post, the White House announced that Douglas Frantz, late of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, has been named the State Department's assistant secretary for public affairs. Glen Johnson, formerly The Boston's Globe's political editor, took a position as a senior state department advisor earlier this year.
Tara Sonenshine, who was the previous undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, left the post in July after a little more than a year. Ann Stock has been in the role in an interim capacity.
Stengel's heir apparent, Gibbs, has been with Time in one role or another since 1985. She was named deputy managing editor in September 2011.
"When it comes to Nancy, you already know the historic stuff: most covers written," Stengel wrote back then in a memo announcing her promotion. "What you don't know is how Nancy has applied some of those same cover-writing skills to her work as a manager: she has brought great creativity to dealing with the business side, she has excelled at planning stories and covers many months in advance, and she has been a perfect mentor to writers and editors."
Allbritton Communications, which owns POLITICO, recently acquired Capital New York. This article was produced jointly by the two publications.