Conflict over future of Face as Davis departs

The Face: disagreement over focus

Emap has come under renewed fire from journalists for trying to turn the style press mainstream. The response follows the sudden departure of Face editor Johnny Davis last week and the closure of style glossy The Fashion.

Davis’s departure is believed to be the result of growing conflict over whether to focus on mainstream celebrities or the more niche trend-setting features on which The Face  has built its name.

Sources say he came under pressure from middle management seeking short-term answers for the board.

"I don’t think they’d care if he put a pig in a frock on the front as long as it sold 100,000. As soon as the Emap machine cranked into gear again after Christmas, at the point of the ABCs – that was it," a source told Press Gazette.

Davis and Emap would not comment on his departure. But Davis did say he was planning to write a novel based on his experiences of working for a style magazine at Emap. He is also involved in the launch of a youth title described as "The Face without celebrities".

Former Face editor Richard Benson said: "Johnny is as talented as anyone. The problem with The Face is that the market has changed beyond all recognition, everyone else is picking up on trends much quicker and it has become a lot harder.

"The Face had a fairly clear constituency of trendy people who were alienated by the mainstream but in the past five years the mainstream has become trendy and it’s difficult to know whether to go towards the mainstream or stand outside."

"Looking at the magazine over the last year or so, it looks as though there have been some conflicting ideas about where to position it." Sales of the issue featuring David Beckham’s "mohican" were said to be disappointing.

Emap has battled to turn around sales of The Face and Arena ever since they were acquired as part of Wagadon for a reputed £16m in 1999. At the time, Paul Keenan, then managing director of Emap Metro, told Press Gazette: "We do have strong values at Emap, but we believe you go back to the editor, back to the creative team and leave good people to get on with what they are good at. We don’t believe in mass-market magazines."

By Ruth Addicott

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