Carey gets down to business

He may have left Linsly-Chittenden hall in a black limousine in the company of at least five assistants, but New Yorker Vice-President and Publisher David Carey is no uptight businessman.

Carey made jokes and poked fun at his magazine when he spoke to a crowd of about 100 students and faculty members Thursday. His speech, “The New Yorker Story — or how the Great American Magazine got its Mojo Back,” was part of a series of talks sponsored by the Gordon Grand Fellowship.

Carey was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation, a DVD featuring New Yorker editor David Remnick, and an associate publisher charged solely with the task of advancing the slides. Every desk in the room had a free copy of the Oct. 13, 2003 New Yorker.

Under Carey, the New Yorker returned to profitability for the first time in 18 years, and its circulation is now rapidly approaching one million. But despite Carey’s success, some have said he does not seem to fit the businessman stereotype. After Carey was featured in an Apple Computer advertisement, Folio Magazine called him “the antithesis of slick — owlish glasses, unassuming delivery, nerdy appeal.” But despite his trademark thick-rimmed, black Henry Kissinger-style glasses, Carey spoke confidently and was not afraid to be less than serious.

“It’s sort of intimidating to speak to a room full of potential doctors and lawyers when I work for a magazine which is primarily concerned with talking dog cartoons,” Carey said.

The New Yorker, Carey said, was started after a high-stakes poker game between its first editor, Harold Ross, and the wealthy financier Raoul Fleischman, who also happened to be a poor poker player.

Throughout its history, the magazine has struggled to make a profit and relate to its audience, Carey said. When editor Tina Brown resigned in 1998, the magazine was in poor shape, Carey said. Brown’s buzz-centered approach to improving the magazine’s fortunes had failed; circulation had continued to grow but advertisers had little confidence in the magazine.

Carey said it was the content-driven focus of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Remnick, who took the editorial reigns in July 1998, and a sea change in the national mood that turned the magazine around.

Brett Ruff ’07 said it was years of being exposed to the magazine that drew him to the talk.

“I enjoy reading the New Yorker and Harper’s and I wanted to learn how it all works,” Ruff said.

But some audience members said they thought the talk was sometimes surprisingly like a sales pitch.

“I love the New Yorker, and I’m very interested in anything about its inside workings, but the talk sometimes seemed like an advertising pitch more than anything else,” Sarah Van Der Laan GRD ’08 said.

Along with the Gordon Grand Fellowship, Branford College and the School of Management sponsored Carey’s talk. In the past, the SOM hosted most of the fellowship’s events, but recently those in charge of the fellowship decided to rotate the events among residential colleges to attract more undergraduates.

David Carey, publisher of the New Yorker, speaks with students after his talk at Linsly-Chittenden Hall Thursday. Carey is acclaimed for returning the magazine to profitability after 18 years of financial loss.
Ashley Hemmers
David Carey, publisher of the New Yorker, speaks with students after his talk at Linsly-Chittenden Hall Thursday. Carey is acclaimed for returning the magazine to profitability after 18 years of financial loss.

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