Historian and author Alan Brinkley sat down with New York Times columnist Frank Rich last night at the 92nd St. Y to discuss his definitive biography of Time founder Henry Luce, a book that's been years in the making.
"When you started writing this, Fox News didn't exist," joked Rich, a longtime friend of Brinkley's and former Time staffer.
Brinkley had to laugh too, knowing how much effort went into “The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century,” which chronicles the man who also launched such game-changing titles as Forbes, Life and Sports Illustrated. But for a publisher who created the print media establishment nearly 90 years ago, Luce's empire had some very blog-like beginnings.
"[In the beginning], Time had no reporters," Brinkley revealed. "They'd take stories from the newspapers and rewrite them, condense them and use jazzier language."
As a 23-year old publishing upstart, Luce certainly bucked the trend by putting out an opinionated, bipartisan weekly. Doesn't sound too archaic, does it? Frank called it an aggregator and a precursor to sites like The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.
Or you could compare the young magazine's then staffers with, say, today's sharp-tongued Gawker bloggers.
"These were kids out of Yale who had smart a--- opinions," Brinkley said. "And they brought them into everything they wrote."
Of course that wouldn't always remain the case. Not long after its inception, Time started leaning to the right, as Luce's politics became increasingly conservative. Any yet, despite its thinly veiled Republicanism, Time seemed to remain an every American magazine.
"I think what drew people to Time wasn't the opinions or partisanship, but the comprehensiveness. It was addictive," Brinkley said.