Jane Amsterdam

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Jane Amsterdam
Born (1951-06-15) June 15, 1951 (age 68)
NationalityAmerican
EducationCedar Crest College
OccupationEditor
Years active1973–1993
Known for
Spouse(s)
Jonathan Larsen
(m. 1985; div. 2000)

Jane Ellen Amsterdam (born June 15, 1951) is a former American magazine and newspaper editor. After successive magazine editorships during the 1970s, she joined The Washington Post as section editor. She later became founding editor of Manhattan, inc. magazine, and was widely credited with making it into a dynamic, National Magazine Award-winning magazine.[1] She later joined the New York Post, becoming the first female editor of a major New York City newspaper.[2] At the New York Post she worked to increase the paper's credibility and journalism standards. By the time she left the Post in 1989 she was one of only six women in the country editing a newspaper with a circulation of over 100,000.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Amsterdam was born June 15, 1951, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the third of four children. Her mother, Fay was a housewife and her father, Morton, was a dentist and university professor.[4][5] She was raised in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, and worked for her high school newspaper. She attended Cedar Crest College, during which she interned at Philadelphia magazine. After graduating in 1973 she joined Connecticut Magazine where she worked until 1976 as assistant editor, associate editor, then executive editor.[5] In 1976 she became the founding managing editor of New Jersey Monthly,[6] leaving in 1978 to become editor of New Times magazine until it folded the following year.[5]

In 1979 she edited The American Lawyer and spent seven weeks as executive editor of New York magazine before being hired by The Washington Post as Style section editor, where she worked until 1983.[2] At the Post, she collaborated with reporters Bob Woodward and Patrick Tyler on an article regarding allegations of improper stock practices by CIA deputy director Max C. Hugel, who resigned the day after the story broke.[2][7] Shortly afterward, Amsterdam was made deputy editor of an investigative unit under Woodward.[2]

Manhattan, inc.[edit]

In 1983, Amsterdam was hired by D. Herbert Lipson to begin assembling his new magazine, Manhattan, inc. The first issue appeared in September 1984, and after only four issues it won the 1985 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Under Amsterdam's editorship the magazine was also a finalist for the same award in 1986, 1987, and 1988.[8] A colleague at Manhattan, inc. recalled: "one of her great gifts is that she packages stories so that people love to read them."[2] Journalist Ron Rosenbaum dedicated his 1987 book Manhattan Passions to Amsterdam.[9] Fortune editor John Huey lists Amsterdam as a formative influence.[10] But she also had a reputation for being hard to work with, going through two executive editors before the third issue. In March 1987, Amsterdam abruptly resigned in a dispute over editorial control, accusing Lipson of wanting to favor advertisers.[2] She told Newsweek: "(Lipson) says this is a magazine that celebrates the rich and powerful. I say this is a magazine that reports on the rich and powerful—good and bad."[11] Afterwards, the Wall Street Journal approached her to develop a new business magazine, but the proposal was dropped after the October 1987 stock market crash.[2]

New York Post and beyond[edit]

In January 1988, Amsterdam joined book publishing company Alfred A. Knopf as senior editor. In May of that year she was hired by the New York Post as editor, replacing Frank Devine. Amsterdam was given full control over all sections except the editorial division.[2] Within six months the paper, famous for tabloid journalism and headlines such as "Headless Body in Topless Bar" had toned down the sensationalism and increased investigative reporting.[12] She also oversaw the debut of the Post's new Sunday edition, a feature intended to compete against rival New York tabloids the Daily News and Newsday,[13] and worked on the section's book review and travel supplements.[14] Within a year after hiring, Amsterdam was forced out by Post publisher Peter Kalikow, who reportedly complained that the more credible form of journalism was not helping sell more papers.[1]

After departing the Post, Amsterdam turned down a job offer from the Los Angeles Times[15] and dropped plans for a proposed magazine about competition between people.[16] Amsterdam was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and served as a judge for the National Magazine Awards in 1988 and 1989, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 and 1990.[4] Her alma mater awarded her an honorary degree in 1989.[4][17] In 1993 she became a senior producer on the ABC News program Day One before largely retiring from the media industry.[15][18] That same year, she took up the sport of competitive carriage driving.[15]

From 1985 to 2000 she was married to writer Jonathan Z. Larsen, former editor-in-chief of The Village Voice,[19] with whom she adopted a son, Roy Edward, in 1990.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kurtz, Howard (27 May 1989). "Editor out at N. Y. Post". Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Kasindorf, Jeanie (May 30, 1988). "The Amsterdam News". New York. pp. 40–44.
  3. ^ Times Wire Services (27 May 1989). "PEOPLE: Amsterdam Reportedly Quits as Editor of N.Y. Post". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ a b c Who's Who in America, 1990-1991. 1 (46th ed.). Marquis Who's Who. 1990. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-8379-0146-6.
  5. ^ a b c Applegate, Edd (1996). Literary Journalism: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers and Editors. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-0-313-29949-0.
  6. ^ Schlager, Ken (December 12, 2016). "40 Years Young: The History of New Jersey Monthly". New Jersey Monthly.
  7. ^ Tyler, Patrick E.; Cannon, Lou (1981-07-15). "Hugel Resigns as Chief of CIA spy Operations". Washington Post.
  8. ^ "Winners and Finalists Database". www.magazine.org. American Society of Magazine Editors. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  9. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (1987). Manhattan Passions: True Tales of Power, Wealth, and Excess (1st ed.). New York: Beech Tree Books. ISBN 978-0688066123.
  10. ^ Wolff, Michael (Mar 20, 2000). "Huey and the News". New York.
  11. ^ "Editorial Freedom vs. the Red Suspenders". Newsweek. April 6, 1987. p. 47.
  12. ^ "Grumbles at 'tasteless' Post". New York. 19 December 1988. p. 22.
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Laurence (24 June 2001). "The Last Stand of the Tabloids". Time.
  14. ^ "Post Editor May Leave". The New York Times. 26 May 1989.
  15. ^ a b c Pristin, Terry (14 November 1996). "Harnessing Horses Instead of Writers". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Amsterdam takes back fighting words". New York. 18 June 1990. p. 10.
  17. ^ "Cedar Crest Alum Fired As Editor Of New York Post". The Morning Call. May 28, 1989.
  18. ^ Maneker, Marion (Oct 21, 2010). "Random House Hires Newsweek's Former Editor: Can Two Stones Tied Together Float?". CBS News.
  19. ^ Who's Who in America, 2009. 1 (63rd ed.). Marquis Who's Who. 2008. p. 2840. ISBN 9780837970189.
  20. ^ Anderson, Susan Heller (March 2, 1990). "Chronicle". The New York Times.