Jess Cagle, a 32-year veteran of Time Inc. (now Meredith) who helped launch Entertainment Weekly in 1990, is stepping down from his role as editor in chief of PEOPLE. His last day with the company is March 31.
“I’ve decided it’s time to do some other things while I’m still young — or at least alive,” he wrote in a staff memo. “It’s also time for me to live in Los Angeles full-time under the same roof as my husband and dog.” Meredith is expected to announce his replacement shortly.
Under Cagle’s leadership, PEOPLE’s audience grew to more than 100 million across all platforms — the largest in its 45-year history. He also shepherded in a new kind of service journalism at the magazine by running stories about drug addiction, sexual harassment, suicide, and gun violence. “One of the things I really wanted to do when I took over PEOPLE, which is such a daunting job, is to use the power of the magazine for good,” says Cagle. “I really wanted PEOPLE to take a stand on social issues. After the 2015 mass shooting near Roseburg, Oregon, we issued a Call to Action. We published the contact information for every member of Congress so our audience could make their voices heard and demand that their representatives fight harder against the epidemic of gun violence. PEOPLE taking that stand really did help change the national conversation. It became okay for the mainstream media to say, ‘Something’s got to be done, this is insanity.’”
Cagle oversaw some of pop culture’s most seminal moments, including the marriages of Amal and George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, both in 2014. More recently, he’s particularly proud of the Feb. 25 cover featuring Bravo star Andy Cohen with his new infant son, Benny. “It was a great personal moment for me,” says Cagle. “As a gay kid who grew up in the ’70s, the idea that a gay single dad would be on the cover of PEOPLE and that we would be the one to do it? That is incredible.”
During his 32 years at Time Inc., Cagle worked at PEOPLE (1987–1990; 2003–2009; and as editor in chief, 2014–2019), Time (as a senior editor from 2000 to 2002), and Entertainment Weekly (1990–2000, and as editor from 2009 to 2014). While at EW, he integrated the print and digital teams and oversaw numerous brand extensions, including the EW channel on SiriusXM. Under his leadership at PEOPLE, the editorial team published special books, significantly ramped up its digital content production, and produced numerous TV programs such as the People Magazine Investigates franchise on Discovery ID, and a live daily web series, People Now, on People’s OTT network, PeopleTV. Cagle also hosted The Jess Cagle Interview, which is broadcast on all of the brand’s digital platforms and SiriusXM’s Entertainment Weekly channel.
Cagle will announce his next move shortly, but plans to take a few months off and go on a long-delayed honeymoon to Bora Bora with his husband, writer-producer Matt Whitney (Timeless, Chicago Fire). He is grateful for his time at PEOPLE, which he seemed destined to run someday while growing up in a small Texas town. “Besides having great stories about celebrities, it also had stories about real people doing amazing things,” recalls Cagle, who began reading the magazine at the age of 9. “It opened up the world to me.”
Here are the memos that were sent to staff today from Cagle and Bruce Gersh, the EVP and president of PEOPLE, EW, and PEOPLE en Español.
This is to let you know that I will be stepping down as Editor in Chief of People when my contract expires on March 31. I will be around and available to help with the transition, but I’ve decided it’s time to do some other things while I’m still young — or at least alive. It’s also time for me to live in Los Angeles full-time under the same roof as my husband and dog.
A few words of gratitude to the People staff: Over the past five years I’ve watched in awe as you all came together and grew our audience to more than 100 million. You’ve brought People’s energy and humanity to every platform. You have changed lives with your compassionate stories on addiction and abuse. You changed the national conversation about gun violence with your fearless reporting. Because of you, the world knows the story of Natasha Stoynoff. Along the way we’ve had a lot of fun; last year we united the country — for a moment — by naming Idris Elba the Sexiest Man Alive. I am so proud to have been a part of all that and so much more, and so deeply grateful for your remarkable intelligence and endless hours of work, which make everything possible. It has been a privilege to work and create and debate and laugh with you every day.
I will also be leaving my role as Editorial Director of the Entertainment Group. To the Entertainment Weekly staff and Editor in Chief Henry Goldblatt: Thank you for making EW the smart, funny, singular sensation that it was always meant to be, and you’ve done it so beautifully across print, digital, radio, and video. To the staff of People en Español and Editor in Chief Armando Correa: Thank you for your tireless energy and creativity. You are a master class in how to give an audience exactly what it wants to see, hear and feel.
I started my career as a People reporter in 1987, and for more than three decades — during tours of duty at People, Time, and EW — Time Inc., and now Meredith, have given me work, friends, mentors, memories, experiences, and a life that, frankly, I cannot believe is mine. I wish for all of you the same joy, opportunity, and fulfillment in your careers, and look forward to seeing you continue to grow and evolve these brands during this tumultuous but exciting media era.
Again, thank you all… for everything,
After a successful five-year run as Editor in Chief of PEOPLE and more than 30 years with legacy Time Inc., Jess Cagle has decided he’s stepping down when his contract expires on March 31. He will also be leaving his role as Editorial Director of Entertainment Weekly and People en Español.
We thank Jess for his award-winning talent, tireless energy, and numerous contributions that have helped solidify PEOPLE’s place as the No. 1 source for delivering trusted celebrity and human interest journalism. PEOPLE is a powerful cultural force that is in the best shape of its life reaching 1 in 3 adults nationwide. Adweek has recognized PEOPLE as the hottest celebrity magazine each year since 2015.
Jess has led a talented laser-focused team devoted to serving PEOPLE’s loyal audience of over 100 MM — the largest in its history. During his tenure, PEOPLE Digital has grown its reach by 32 million unique users and the average user spends nearly 30% more time on the site that it did nearly five years ago. With Jess’ guidance, the PEOPLE editorial team has published multiple specials and books, while also producing video and hundreds of pieces of digital content every week. It has also launched numerous TV programs, including the People Magazine Investigates franchise on Discovery ID, two four-hour specials for ABC, a live daily web series, and a People OTT network. Jess also hosted The Jess Cagle Interview, which is broadcast on the brand’s digital platforms and SiriusXM’s Entertainment Weekly channel.
While serving as Editor in Chief of PEOPLE, Jess marshaled the brand’s power and reach to raise awareness of numerous issues, including addiction, abuse, and suicide. Last year PEOPLE published the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the cover. PEOPLE also issued a bold “Call to Action,” encouraging readers to stand up against the nation’s gun violence epidemic, and publishing contact information for every member of Congress in print and on people.com.
Prior to PEOPLE, from 2009 to 2014, Jess served as editor of Entertainment Weekly, where he also integrated print and digital operations, and launched numerous brand extensions. He began his career as a PEOPLE reporter in 1987. Jess commented: “Time Inc., and now Meredith, have given me work, friends, mentors, memories, experiences, and a life that, frankly, I cannot believe is mine. I will miss creating, debating and laughing with my extraordinary colleagues every day. This has been a tough decision, but it’s time to do some other things while I’m still young — or at least alive. And it’s time for me to live in Los Angeles full-time under the same roof as my husband and dog. I really cannot express how much this place and these people have meant to me.”
Please join me in wishing Jess well.