Tina Brown Regrets Not Being Able to Publish That Lillian Ross Piece

Former New Yorker editor sought advice from S.I. Newhouse Jr. about the idea of William Shawn feature.

ReportingAlwaysCoverFor a recent New York Times report, Penelope Green paid a visit to the East 85th Street apartment of Lillian Ross, 97, the longtime New Yorker writer. A collection of 32 of Ross’s essays for the magazine is out this week from Simon and Schuster.

Green also spoke to former New Yorker editor Tina Brown, who notes that a relationship with Sir Harold Evans echoed the celebrated experiences of Ross, an ‘iconic girl reporter who fell in love with the editor.’ After returning Ross to the pages of the magazine, Brown pursued the idea of a feature about Ross’s long personal and professional relationship with that previous New Yorker editor, William Shawn. In the end, Brown chose not to publish:

“As an editor, I felt her story was absolutely remarkable,” said Brown. “And as it came out of her, as I drew it from her, as we would talk and talk about it, of course, I wanted to publish it terribly badly.”

“But there was a tremendous sense of hostility to that in the office. I was in such agony I did something that I never do, which was to ask Si” — that is, S. I. Newhouse Jr., former chairman of Condé Nast — “what he thought. And he said: ‘Some decisions are too hard to make. This is one of them.’ In the end, I think the decision was probably the right one, though I regret not being its publisher.”

Ross’s most recent pieces for The New Yorker touched on Robin Williams and J.D. Salinger. Read the rest of Green’s profile here.
[Jacket cover courtesy: Scribner]

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.