Editors Rex: Lindgren-Moss Saga

Media world watches battle of Hugo Lindgren and Adam Moss.

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Late one night in early February 2009, at the headquarters of New York Magazine at 75 Varick Street, editor Adam Moss walked into the office of Hugo Lindgren, the editorial director.

Lindgren, a kind of bespectacled Aaron Eckhart and one of Moss’ right-hand men, had edited a piece called “Freakoutonomics” — an article about making it during the recession — and press time was getting near. Moss and Lindgren were used to withstanding the deadline squeeze together. But when Moss asked his editorial director if he could make a last-minute change on a pull quote, Lindgren snapped at his boss.

A pull quote! At this hour?

Lindgren told Moss he was tired of this sort of thing. The argument took place inside of Lindgren’s open office door and lasted for 10 minutes. There was a great deal of screaming and cursing, and plenty of staff in the New York office witnessed and heard the magazine equivalent of a domestic quarrel.

And while the fight over the pull quote wasn’t the trigger for making the two eventually split up, it signaled how far things had come in the relationship between one of New York’s great editors and the man who had worked by his side for 10 years.

A year later, Lindgren left New York Magazine for Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Within six months of that, Lindgren was named the editor of The New York Times Magazine. Lindgren will now take on his former boss, and current rival, on a weekly basis at the magazine that for five years was run by Moss, before he left the Times to edit New York.

“Did you see this week’s issue?” said Lindgren in a phone interview, referring to New York Magazine.

He laughed.

“They had one of our writers in there. They had pretty much our subject matter across the magazine. It’s totally good, though. What makes it good? Why are the Mets and Yankees spending so much money to put the best team out on the field? Because they don’t want to be the second best team in New York.”

Lindgren, from two miles uptown, was sizing up his competition, and seemed to be enjoying the moment.

“Yeah,” he continued, “there’s a healthy rivalry.”

And so the battle begins. Like most creative fields — fashion, design, music, advertising — magazine editing is made up of a world of mentors and protégés. If the protégés really have what it takes, and the mentors do their jobs, a breakup is inevitable.

And now it’s Lindgren vs. Moss, in the manner of David Granger leaving GQ and his mentor Art Cooper to edit Esquire; Kate Betts departing Vogue to take on her old boss Anna Wintour as editor of Harper’s Bazaar, or in Hollywood, Jeffrey Katzenberg leaving Disney to take on his old boss Michael Eisner. Mentor vs. Protégé; Master vs. Apprentice.

“I had to work for him for 10 years,” Lindgren, 42, said of Moss, speaking on the phone from his new office at The New York Times Building, where he was completing his second week in his new job. “We definitely had our share of disagreements and things that built up.”

“Hugo became unhappy in that job for whatever reasons,” said Moss. “And when he got unhappy it became unpleasant. It became unpleasant for him and it became unpleasant for me. Hugo knew himself well enough to realize he should go and do something else. Fabulously, it worked out great for everybody.”

Back in 1999, Moss was the editor of the Times Magazine, and one of his big tasks was to reinvent the front sections of the book. He hired Ariel Kaminer and then Hugo Lindgren, a tag team at New York Magazine, to build the section that came to be called The Way We Live Now. The section was a front-of-the-book well that helped define Moss’ touch with the art of magazine packaging.

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