Unlike most journalists, Tina Brown carries with her an aura of swashbuckling glamour, a remnant of her starry, high-budget run during the 1980s and ’90s as editor in chief of Vanity Fair and then The New Yorker. Like many journalists, Brown, 66, has pivoted in recent years to an adjacent line of work, in her case the live-event business. Her Women in the World Summit, which has hosted speakers like Oprah Winfrey and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, is held each spring at Lincoln Center. (The New York Times was once a partner in the business.) She has also written two best-selling books, “The Vanity Fair Diaries” and “The Diana Chronicles,” a tell-all about the British royal family. Despite her career shifts, it’s her magazine work — after leaving The New Yorker, she edited the short-lived Talk, as well as the Daily Beast website and Newsweek — for which she remains best known. Not that she has any strong desire to revisit that particular world. “Editing now,” Brown says, “is all about: ‘How do I keep this publication alive? How do I get it financed?’ I can do more onstage than I can in a magazine.”
One magazine innovation that you’re often credited with is treating lowbrow stuff in a rarefied, intelligent way. Is the distinction between highbrow and lowbrow ever worth preserving? Well, there has never been more need for intelligence. People want to see things looked at in a different way, and one problem we have is that people have become afraid to be counterintuitive. They’re afraid to have third-rail conversations, because they think it’s not worth being hounded out of a job for saying the wrong things.
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