Time Magazine marches on-sadly- Minister of Culture

May 21, 2018 GMT

Time Magazine marches on-sadly- Minister of Culture


Remember that opening scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey” when the Ape Men encounter the tall, mysterious black monolith? They are so in awe they can barely bring themselves to touch it. They quiver and quake around the base until one of them finally summons the courage to reach out and make contact.

That’s how I felt when I first approached the Time &Life building on 50th Street and 6th Avenue in New York City back in 1979. Time Magazine was a big deal to me growing up. It was my window on the world. As a kid I read it cover to cover every week. It made me want to pursue journalism and move to New York City.

I ended up working for People magazine from 1979 to 1984. I was a copy boy and free-lance writer. For the five years I was there I knew I was part of something special and historic. And fun.

Now it’s all over. The media dynasty is dead. The Meredith Corporation, (headquarters Des Moines Iowa) bought Time Inc. this year. They are planning to part with some of its more storied assets, Time Magazine is one.

The New York Times on Sunday described Time Inc. as being on the “scrap heap.”

Henry R. Luce and Briton Hadden started the company in 1922. In 1923 they published the first issue of Time. They followed that magazine with Fortune and Life. Sports Illustrated, Money, People and Instyle came along next over the decades. In 1989 Time Inc. spent 14.9 billion for a controlling share of Warner Communications. That’s when they became the media behemoth known as Time Warner.

When I was at People it seemed like we were printing money. No expense was spared in pursuit of a story. Once on assignment to profile Dennis Hopper I missed my connecting flight from Albuquerque to Taos. I rented a private jet for $3,000.00 for a 20 -minute flight so I wouldn’t be late for our lunch. Nobody in accounting blinked, so I picked up the lunch too.

That’s how it was back then. Fun, fun, fun.

Former People managing editor Jim Gaines told the New York Times the magazine was so lucrative he took the entire staff to Key Largo, Fla. for a four-day retreat.

The stories of excess are legion, but so are the ones of great journalism. We closed the magazine on Tuesday nights but often had to rip it up when some cataclysmic event occurred on a Monday. And they did all the time. Two words: John Lennon.

I was a lucky stiff who got in on the tail end of a golden age of journalism when the cotton was high. I’m sad to be seeing the sun set on the glorious legacy of Time Inc. But I’m also grateful that I had the opportunity to be on that Titanic team for a brief five years at the very beginning of my dubious career as a scrubby scribbler.

What’s the name of that George Harrison album? “All Things Must Pass.” That’s the one.