Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. I'm in Iowa where "harvest" is not just a word but a way of life for many people. All around me are fields that have been harvested. We have not had snow yet, but the days are chilly and crisp.

Please enjoy the two blogs that I have contributed recently to the Hooker Furniture site. Kim Shaver asked me to comment on how to accommodate all the guests for the holiday dinner as well as ways to welcome home college kids. Kim has a way of getting my editor's DNA going. It's fun to think on these topics...and find new ideas for new times.

The Lexington Company is a Swedish-based organization that seems to have it's finger on the American pulse. I thought you'd enjoy their take on Thanksgiving. I think they'd love to have such a holiday. I spent Thanksgiving in England once and was homesick for turkey and all the trimmings. Maybe things are different now with the Brits having embraced so many cuisines from around the world. The Christmas I spent at Michael's Nook in the Lake District did not disappoint. It was just the most wonderful Christmas one could imagine--especially since my husband and son shared it with me.

A final note--read David Brooks in The New York Times about the kind of magazines he thinks might survive today. Seems to me, it was the formula we used to begin Victoria. Let me know what you think--after you've had just the best holiday ever.


Monday, November 15, 2010

On Cathleen Black

Some time ago I came to defend Tina Brown, a publishing super star, when she was being given a bad time in the media. My reason was not based on a professional relationship--although thanks to Tina I got my photograph, along with a slew of others, in Vanity Fair in the early days of Victoria. I had seen Tina and one of her children in a restaurant after mom had put in a long day at the office. I admired how she related to her child. She didn't know anyone was watching her--and she didn't know me.

As many former Victoria readers know, Cathie Black was my boss during the last years of my tenure at the magazine. Recently, there has been a lot in the press because after leaving the head of the magazine division at Hearst, she has been appointed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to be chancellor of the New York City schools.

I was a teacher once--and continued to think of myself as one in the positions I held in publishing. My childhood goal was to be a history teacher. But I moved beyond the classroom of 25 students to one of hundreds of thousands. I kept that trust with my readers at Victoria. The magazine supported writers, artists, scholars, and women in many various pursuits. As we went along as a franchise, I was able to do more and more in this area. No boss at Hearst, including Cathie Black, stood in the way of this direction of the magazine as long as I was editor in chief.

But as I did with Tina, I have looked to my Cathie Black years to find not the hard driving boss to whom ad pages were a major priority, but to the mom and woman that I might relate to. Once, I was in a meeting with Cathie and asked to leave for a few minutes while she took a phone call from her son's school. Obviously there was some kind of problem, probably a little one--which is how I addressed the situation when our meeting resumed. For a few moments, she was the vulnerable mother worried about her child. Granted, it was from behind a desk.

When the writer Mary Pipher was brought to the Hearst building by Victoria for a reception on her being named one of the Stars in Our Crown, Cathie came to the reception and spent a good deal of time speaking with Mary. It seemed to me that she wanted to get the essence of this woman who had written so knowingly about young women in Reviving Ophelia. Mary is a plainspoken woman from Nebraska--and seeing the two of them locked in conversation did not go unnoticed by me. I was pleased to see Cathie, the business icon in high heels, engaged with Mary, the philosopher writer in sensible shoes.

This post is not to endorse Cathie Black in her new job. As a former teacher, I'd have my reservations about how her executive skills translate to a public service job. Having worked for Cathie, I have reservations about how her style of management will fit into the requirements of such an important role in the life of New York City's students. I think the thing I would wonder about most is if she does indeed have that stroke of genius that will be innovative at a time when such talent is sorely needed in education; or, does a business background lead one to rely on the tried and true? The word "management" is often attached to success in the business world. Is not leadership what is sorely needed in our public servants? And a leadership that comes from a deep-seated passion for what they are doing? Passion is not something that executives have always honed in their careers. Business executives have the luxury of dealing from the top down. But does not leadership require consensus building to motivate and steer a huge educational system successfully?

I will follow Cathie's tenure and hope to see the concerned mom and the compassionate listener. And I wish her well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two New "Musts" in NYC!

Good News from Harney and Sons! For those of you who might be visiting New York in the future, here's a stop you won't want to miss: Our good friend John Harney and his company have a lovely new place. What could be better when holiday shopping than stopping in for tea--and stocking up on gifts at the same time?

I am in the Midwest at the moment, but am putting this on my list when I get back.

There is also a special little place in Tribeca to stop for a delightful lunch or dinner with an Italian flavor. My good friend Gerard Renny never disappoints when it comes to Italian classics with new twists. Stuzzicheria is also my cup of tea. The rice balls are fabulous--and their sandwiches are award-winning.

Cheers to all...