Eat Your Heart Out, Bill O'Reilly
There are a lot of books written that nobody reads. There are a few that everybody reads. It is not always the best book that gets the readers. As often, it is the book that gets the best promotion – the one whose author appears on television shows, or better still, has his or her own TV show and can promote the book with shameless frequency. Thus Chris Matthews and Bill O’Reilly are pretty much doomed to best-sellers when they write books on John F. Kennedy.
However, if you don’t have your own TV show, it never hurts to have your own magazine. Thus, for the last year we have been promoting a book, off and on, on the history of regional magazines, such as this one. We had hoped that with sufficient mention, someday we would actually publish it.
That day is now. The book is a history of a remarkable time when a group of which we were lucky to be a part, invented what is basically a new media – the city/regional magazine. It happened in Philadelphia in the 1960s, or even the 1950s, if you want to pick a date when the present publisher joined his father in what was then a little-known business magazine. Many people think New York Magazine was the first of its kind, but it did not come along until the late 1960s.
There have been other regional magazines – Palm Beach Life, dates to 1906 and there are a few other magazines devoted to lifestyle or travel which go back years. But they were not city magazines as we know the form today. They did not, as Philadelphia did in the 1960s, put the city’s top newspaper investigative reporter in jail for extortion. They did not so embarrass his publisher to the extent that one of the most powerful men in American newspapering, Walter Annenberg, decided to sell to Knight Ridder (who then published The Miami Herald) and leave town.
And most significantly, they did not begin the challenge to the Warren Commission that has resulted – 50 years later – in the widespread acceptance that a conspiracy of U.S. government figures was behind the murder of a president. That story has long been close to home, for it followed Gaeton Fonzi to Florida when he was a partner in this magazine in the 1970s. He later worked five years as a federal investigator when the JFK probe was reopened. His conclusion was that if our CIA did not orchestrate President Kennedy’s murder, it certainly did its best to cover it up.
His book, The Last Investigation, originally appeared as two long pieces in our magazines. It influenced so many subsequent researchers that upon his death last August, The New York Timescited it as one of the most important among hundreds of books written about the assassination.
Fonzi and others wrote such powerful stories, over a 10-year period, gained national recognition and made Philadelphiaa powerful influence in its city. They also inspired people in other cities to imitate the success of Philadelphia. Today there are hundreds of local magazines, including our company’s six in Florida, which all do the kinds of things that began in Philadelphia. That’s all part of the book.
While it is mostly about that pioneering era in the north, it will hold some interest in places such as here, Boston, Texas, California, even Denver, where people formerly associated with Philadelphia magazine got their inspiration.