FOF Cathie Black, whom New York Mayor Bloomberg recently appointed to be Chancellor of New York City schools, is a no-nonsense woman. I’ve known her for years, albeit not well. But I know her enough to know that she’s probably going to manage the massive system quite well (it’s the largest public school system in the US, with 1,700 schools, 80,000 teachers, 1.1 million students, and an annual budget of $23 billion.)
Many educators don’t want Cathie to hold the position, claiming she has no education experience, whatsoever. Her two kids went to private school, as did she. Phooey, I say. Cathie was head of Hearst Magazines, and anyone who can manage magazine editors and publishers can manage absolutely anything and anyone. That includes teachers, parents, students, superintendents and deputy superintendents.
I have been an editor and publisher for 80 zillion years, so I know of what and whom I speak. Magazine publishing is filled with creative, competitive, demanding, passionate, argumentative and smart people. Good editors and publishers are difficult, if nearly impossible, to manage well. They fight with each other on a day-to-day basis (publishers want editors to write about advertisers and editors want to write about everyone but advertisers). Publishers think they run magazines because they are the ones who bring in the revenue; editors would rather die than report to publishers. Editors don’t pay any attention to advertising quotas and publishers don’t give a hoot about pretty pictures. Throw in prima donna art directors, photographers and writers, and you’ve got your hands full.
Before leading Hearst so successfully (she created O magazine, for example), Black built USA Today into an extraordinary success in her eight years there, and broke through a critical gender barrier in 1979 when she became the first female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine, New York.