Right Places, Right Times, by Hedley Donovan
In the opening sentence of his memoir, Hedley Donovan, editor-in-chief of Time Inc. from 1964 to 1979, tells us his life’s work has been “trying to manage the almost unmanageable: intellectuals.” This sounds rather hard-boiled; but then intellectuals have always been a touchy point for Time and its various spinoffs. Henry Luce, says Donovan, was “distressed that intellectuals and academics didn’t much esteem Time; many loathed it.” In his indignation, as in so much else, Luce intriguingly resembled that other great media mogul, William Randolph Hearst. Both saw themselves as unelected tribunes—Hearst of the common man, Luce of Middle America. Both, too, had an unmistakable genius—Hearst for concocting news, Luce for packaging it.
Still there were the intellectuals, and Luce craved their approval. His solution was to put them on his payroll: John Kenneth Galbraith, Daniel Bell, Dwight Macdonald, not to mention such gifted writers as James Agee, Whittaker Chambers, Robert Fitzgerald, and John Hersey. Once inside the gate, eggheads could expect a seigneurial summons to Luce’s office to chew over Big Ideas. The nation’s top communications company operated like a think-tank. “The most compelling aspect of my job,” Donovan writes, “was ‘policy.’ What should Time Inc. think?”
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