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Will top editors who are removed from Time Inc. titles still be rewarded with a cushy job on the corporate side?

NO MORE TOP BRASS: Will top editors who are removed from Time Inc. titles still be rewarded with a cushy job on the corporate side? That’s what insiders wondered after news of Jim Kelly’s retirement from Time Inc., as reported Friday by The New York Post. Kelly spent 28 years at Time, ending his tenure as managing editor from 2001 to 2006. He was then promoted to the corporate-level role of Time Inc. managing editor. In that role, Kelly worked alongside Time Inc. editor in chief John Huey, setting policies on issues like standards and ethics, pre-publication vetting of controversial stories and recruitment of outside editorial talent.

Insiders at Time Inc. have long perceived gigs on the 34th floor of Time Inc.’s headquarters as a soft landing pad for editors who were uprooted from their top jobs. Once there, editors have usually worked on projects with Huey until they either found a new job or left of their own accord. When Eric Pooley was removed as Fortune managing editor, Huey said he would take on “an assignment [with him and Kelly] that plays to his strengths in investigative journalism.” After a brief stint as Time editor at large, Pooley got a book deal and left the company. Scott Mowbray, the former editorial director of Time4Media (which was sold to Bonnier in 2007), was named Time Inc. executive editor eight months before the sale. He later became editor of, but left Time Inc. at the end of 2008. When Rick Tetzeli was removed as Entertainment Weekly managing editor in January, he was upped to Time Inc. editor at large and remains at the company. “It’s the holding pattern until they kick you out of there,” said one former Time Inc. editor.

But with the recession squeezing magazine publishers’ profits, the days of the 34th-floor fade-out may be disappearing. A Time Inc. spokeswoman said all of the editors in the corporate suite have specific duties and often move from the 34th floor to various titles. “Time Inc. has a history of employing some of the most gifted and accomplished editorial talent in the world,” she said. “Anyone who believes corporate editorial jobs at Time Inc. are cushy clearly has never held one.”

— Stephanie D. Smith and Irin Carmon

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