July 1, 2008 / 7:04 PM / 10 years ago

New York magazine founder Clay Felker dead at 82

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Publishing pioneer Clay Felker, who founded influential New York magazine and promoted the “new journalism” style of reporting, died at his Manhattan home on Tuesday, the magazine said.

Felker, 82, suffered from cancer of the throat and mouth, The New York Times reported on its Web site.

“American journalism would not be what it is today without Clay Felker, and neither would New York City,” New York Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss said in a statement. “He created a kind of magazine that had never been seen before, told a kind of story that had never been told.”

Felker started New York magazine as a Sunday supplement to The New York Herald Tribune newspaper in 1964, and then as a stand-alone magazine in 1968. It captured an increasingly affluent readership with its hip, skeptical attitude and a sophisticated, urbanite feel.

Under Felker’s ownership, the magazine blended long, narrative journalism with arresting graphics in a way that later became commonplace for many magazines. The Felker style grew increasingly necessary to draw people into reading magazines as television was rising as a competing medium.

“The truth is, straight news, breaking news, is a commodity. The question becomes, what do you do that’s different, and Felker was thinking about what you do that’s different a very long time ago,” said Ken Auletta, who wrote for New York and the Village Voice, which Felker also owned at one time.

The magazine “had a visual sense that grabbed the readers,” said Auletta, who has written books about media and writes the Annals of Communication column for The New Yorker magazine.

Felker also helped introduce many writers who became emblematic of “new journalism” in the 1960s and 1970s that was characterized by longer, irreverent stories. They included Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, Nicholas Pileggi, Jimmy Breslin and Gail Sheehy, whom Felker eventually married.

Felker lost control of New York magazine in 1977 when Rupert Murdoch — then an up-and-coming press baron from Australia who had just bought the New York Post — bought out New York’s principal shareholder.

Felker edited other magazines, including Esquire and Manhattan, inc. and New West, and also taught a magazine writing class at University of California, Berkeley.

“He made people around him feel smarter. In that way he was a great leader,” said Michael Learmonth, a reporter at the business and technology blog Silicon Alley Insider.


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