For those of you who enjoyed our recent post about the literary agent memoir of Sterling Lord, we’ve found its magazine equivalent in Deadlines and Disruption: My Turbulent Path From Print To Digital, a memoir by Stephen B. Shepard. After spending 50 years in the news business, Shepard has many titles to his credit. He is a founding dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York and was the editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek for 21 years. The Bronx, NY-native is also American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Famer and former president. He published his 2012 memoir about remembering how he helped turn BusinessWeek into one of the most lucrative magazines and the digital changes it underwent during the new industry trends.
The following is an excerpt from Deadlines and Disruption:
“When I succeeded Lew Young as editor-in-chief in the fall of 1984, I had no idea that business journalism was at the dawn of a golden age. The Dow Jones average was around 1,200—less than one-tenth of its current value. The just-introduced Apple (AAPL) Macintosh computer was little more than a novelty. And Chinese leaders still wore Mao suits.
Over the next 20 years, during my tenure as editor, the stock market soared, a technology revolution took hold, and China and India emerged as major forces in the world economy. There was a dot-com boom and bust, and there were scandals on Wall Street (Mike Milken, Ivan Boesky, and their cronies). Corporate chief executives emerged as cultural icons (Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch) or as villains (Jeff Skilling of Enron and Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco).
Business journalism had fully emerged from the media backwaters, and I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat at some of the great events of our time. With a strong wind filling its sails, Businessweek flourished both editorially and financially. We produced more than 1,000 issues on my watch, some 100,000 stories of varying length, and well over 10 million words. At its peak, the magazine topped 1.2 million in worldwide circulation, and it had built a formidable journalistic machine. With nearly 250 people on the editorial staff, we had more foreign correspondents than Newsweek and a larger Washington bureau than Time.
By my estimate, we took in more than $6 billion in revenue and earned at least $1 billion in operating profit during my 20-year tenure—making Businessweek one of the most lucrative magazines in the world. Back in 1984, however, I knew only that Businessweek had to change.”
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