EW editors reveal their favorite year-one memory
THEN > Staff Writer
NOW > Editorial Director, People & EW
When EW first hit stands in 1990, the reviews were not kind. The New York media hates nothing more than the New York media, and they had a field day. One critic wrote, for example, a takedown headlined “Entertainment, Weakly.” I wanted to ask those critics to give us a chance to evolve and get better, and remind them that they’re not just writing about a magazine or its publisher, they’re also talking about the very smart, well-meaning people — my friends and colleagues — who created the thing. It was a good lesson for those of us who make a living by calling out other people’s work. It’s our job to tell you whether a TV show or a movie is worth your time and money. Nothing is sacred. It’s okay to slap around an exercise in pandering, and okay to have some fun with Hollywood’s epic fails. But I never wanted EW to forget that entertainment is created not by studios or networks but by people who by and large work hard, try their best, and give a piece of their time on Earth to bring a vision to life.
THEN > Staff Writer
NOW > Senior Editor, The Hollywood Reporter
I’m a couple weeks into the job, and Mark Harris — who was then a senior writer — takes me to my first network event. It’s in a hotel ballroom and there are all these tables set around the room, and you can meet the producers and actors that the network is promoting. And there is one table for this new cartoon on Fox. There’s a guy behind the table signing posters of the show and there’s two guys standing in line and we look at the table and we look at the two guys and we look at each other and we’re like, “Eh. Too long of a wait.” So we leave. Turns out, the guy was Matt Groening and he was signing what now would be 401(k)-size posters. Could have retired on them. But that’s how long EW has been around. It has been around almost as long as The Simpsons.
THEN > Editorial Assistant
NOW > Senior Editor
It’s our second issue that I remember most. Olive green and speckled with camouflage, it bore the world’s most underwhelming cover line: “Why Can’t We Get Out of Vietnam?” Not exactly what you think of when you hear the words “entertainment journalism.” Though the content was great — including a terrific piece on the novelist Tim O’Brien, who had just published The Things They Carried — I’m sure the war’s pop culture treatment wasn’t what Time Inc. brass had in mind when they greenlit the magazine. For the next few knuckle-biting months, people at the company talked about EW’s demise as a matter of when, not if. But I like to think that calmer heads prevailed because even though EW’s footing was a bit unsteady, the work itself was nothing short of astonishing thanks to the dream team of writers, editors, and reporters assembled by founding editor Jeff Jarvis.
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THEN > Senior Writer
NOW > Deputy Editor/Film Critic, The Wrap
In 1990, EW was the newborn everyone slapped around. Publicists snubbed us. We almost folded the day I interviewed Goldie Hawn for a cover; Goldie, perhaps sensing my doomed mood, compassionately smooched my cheek. Bad luck rubbed off on my interview subjects: Bill Cosby’s show was deposed as TV’s next big thing by The Simpsons. Drugstore Cowboy’s author got busted with $38,000 worth of stolen pharmaceuticals. Janis Joplin’s ex, high on booze, pills, and cocaine, fatally crashed his motorcycle as his girlfriend pounded his back to stop. EW wouldn’t stop either. One day staffers received an EW T-shirt emblazoned “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now!” repeated eight times. Once would’ve inspired more confidence. But instead of imploding, EW blew up. Millions poured in. EW staffers broke news, wrote books, changed the voice of cultural journalism. I moved on to Amazon.com, then Hollywood. But nothing’s gonna stop me from wearing that mysteriously shred-resistant old EW T-shirt.
THEN > Photo Researcher
NOW > Photo Editor
I’d just started this new job as a photo researcher and barely knew what I was doing with only nine months of experience in the photography industry. Naturally my first assignment was the very first cover of Entertainment Weekly. We did a story on how the music industry was diversifying beyond pop music, and our cover subjects were artists who were alternative but popular at the time. We sent a photographer to shoot k.d. lang, who was somewhere touring in America, and I called in a photo of Neneh Cherry for an inset shot. For some reason I needed permission to run the Cherry image and so made phone calls to the record label and was bumped and forwarded through the U.K. until finally a kind woman helped me out and said I could use the photograph. I asked with whom I was speaking and the lady said, “I’m Neneh Cherry’s mother.” That is the most thorough I have been on this job in 25 years.