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It’s back to the drawing board for Anna Wintour.
Although there were a handful of other candidates in the running to take over Teen Vogue before Wintour’s top pick of Alexi McCammond blew up in her face, the Condé Nast chief content officer won’t be defaulting to a runner-up, sources said.
The long-time editor-in-chief of Vogue and inspiration for the film “The Devil Wears Prada” wants to vet more candidates before making a final call, which means it could be awhile before she finds a replacement for McCammond, who resigned in a storm of controversy last week, sources said.
“I think something about the way this went down has made Anna Wintour want to cast a wider net,” said a source familiar with the process. “I think the trick now is finding someone who will be willing to inherit the scandal, be able to appease advertisers who paused their spending and build on the equity of justice reporting that Teen Vogue is known for.”
Sources say Wintour had backed McCammond’s hiring almost until the very end, hoping that controversial anti-Asian tweets, which the company had known about in the hiring process, would not become an issue.
The tweets, which referenced “Asian eyes” and a “stupid Asian” teacher’s assistant, dated to 2011 during McCammond’s freshman year in college at the University of Chicago. McCammond, now 27, first apologized for the deleted the tweets when they first surfaced two years as an Axios political reporter.
But backlash was harsh after Condé Nast announced it would be putting McCammond in charge of editorial staffers for the first time in her career at a time of surging violence against Asians, including last week’s mass killings in Atlanta. Advertisers pulled out and she resigned.
“My understanding is that Condé was very behind Alexi up until the resignation and that Anna was really upset at the turn of events,” one source said.
Now the disastrous turn of events has media watchers predicting what, if any, long-term damage this might create for Wintour, who continues to wield ever more power at Condé Nast despite harsh criticisms over her handling of race and diversity issues in the past.
“She’s 70 years old, but she still seems to be expanding her responsibilities,” said an insider who noted that she was recently promoted from artistic director of US Condé Nast to chief content officer with global responsibility. “We were all kind of hoping her responsibilities by now would have been becoming more symbolic but instead she’s adding to them,” this person added.
Back in June 2020, a group of black journalists called on Wintour to resign over her propensity to hire thin white staffer with ties to the upper class. Wintour at the time acknowledged her past shortcomings in a companywide memo and pledged to make more diverse hires.
And for about a day following the March 5 news of her tapping McCammond, Wintour appeared to be in keeping with that promise. McCammond, who has tangled with everyone from Donald Trump to Charles Barkley, was tagged by the National Association of Black Journalists as the emerging journalist of the year in 2019.
Author and blogger Steve Blacker, who consulted with Condé Nast in the 1990s, sees the McCammond pick at a time of rising anti-Asian sentiment as pure foolishness. “It shows Condé Nast to be a bunch of bumbling clowns,” Blacker said. “Why didn’t [CEO] Roger Lynch step in say let’s look at more candidates?”
But other sources are brushing off any concerns of damage to Wintour’s reputation, noting that she’s no stranger to controversy. “Anna is impervious, I doubt this is going to affect her in any way.”
Though originally designed as a fashion and cosmetic title for teens when it launched in 2003, the monthly mag soon became known for covering complex political, sex and social justice issues following its conversion to digital-only in 2017.
But Lindsay Peoples Wagner, who spearheaded much of that coverage, recently exited as top editor to return to New York magazine as editor of The Cut, its fashion and style vertical. The No. 2 editor, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, who also played a key role in the social issues coverage under Peoples Wagner, was on her way out at the same time, telling friends she planned to write a book. Her last day was Friday.
Meanwhile, Wintour is expected to largely look outside the Condé empire for a new chief. “Anna likes to look outside,” said one Condé Nast veteran on the inside, “because she wants someone to shake things up.”
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