Clay Felker, the New York journalist who was the founding editor of New York magazine, the first of many city magazines and regarded by many as the best in the country, died at his Manhattan home where for several years he was under treatment for throat cancer. He was 82.
Originally, New York was a Sunday supplement to the old New York Herald Tribune. When The Tribune folded, Felker was so convinced it still had a future he used his severance pay to buy the rights to the title.
He also convinced some wealthier journalists to put up enough money to continue operating it as a stand-alone weekly. And it worked.
Felker recruited a stable of new writers. They included Tom Wolfe, Dick Schapp, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill, Gael Green, Anna Wintour, Bill Flanagan, Jim Brady, Ken Auletta and Gloria Steinem – all of whom became big names in New York journalism. One of them, Gail Sheehy, he subsequently married.
Felker went on to launch New West magazine. He was also an investor in New York’s Village Voice. In fact, he became a leading exponent of local journalism and what became known as ‘The New Journalism”.
Ultimately Rupert Murdoch, who also saw a big future in local journalism, bought New York magazine and Murdoch invited Felker to stay on as editor.
According to the chronicler of those days, Jim Brady, Felker replied: ‘It won’t work Rupert. We’d never get along”. Murdoch agreed.
Brady admits he was the one who benefitted from providing a weekly gossip column – he inherited the editorship, but only for a time. ‘I was no Clay Felker,’Brady admitted.
Felker went on to take top jobs at the NY Daily News. But it was his years at New York magazine for which he will be most remembered.