Clay Felker, Renowned Editor, Dies at 82

Built New York Magazine Into a Launching Pad for Literary Stars

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Clay Felker, the celebrated editor and founder of New York magazine, died today at his home in Manhattan, New York magazine said. He was 82.
Clay Felker
Clay Felker Credit: AP

"American journalism would not be what it is today without Clay Felker, and neither would New York City," Adam Moss, the current editor in chief of New York, said in a statement. "Those of us lucky enough to work in the house that he built are reminded every day of the depth of his genius. He created a kind of magazine that had never been seen before, told a kind of story that had never been told. Nobody I have ever met in this business was as passionate a champion of talent, as relentlessly curious, or as successful in getting the world inside his head onto the magazine page."

Small-town origins
Mr. Felker was born Oct. 2, 1925, in Webster Groves, Mo., something less than a metropolis. But he is widely credited with creating what we now know as the "city magazine," not to mention his big role in forging the format of glossy weeklies. He also held editing posts at magazines including Esquire, The Village Voice and Manhattan.

It is New York magazine, however, that remains his most vibrant legacy. Mr. Felker introduced New York as a supplement The New York Herald Tribune in 1964. After the newspaper folded, he and Milton Glaser re-introduced New York as a stand-alone weekly in 1968.

There he showed an unbelievable skill at finding and recruiting talent; the writers he assembled at New York included Ken Auletta, Tom Wolfe, Anna Wintour, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and Gail Sheehy, who married Mr. Felker in 1984.
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Rupert Murdoch wrested the magazine from Mr. Felker in 1977; most recently, Bruce Wasserstein paid Primedia $55 million for the magazine in 2003.

New York magazine back on top
New York has gone through periods of both major influence and lesser importance, but regained its ascendance over the past few years. Last year it won five trophies at the National Magazine Awards, including one for general excellence in its circulation category, and Mr. Moss was named Advertising Age's editor of the year.

Mr. Felker was himself much honored along the way. He was inducted into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame in 1996. The Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught for years, established a Clay Felker Magazine Center in 1995.
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