She transformed a dusty trade publication into a smart, sexy must-read for the Hollywood elite. Here, the powerhouse editor reflects on celebrities, feminism and how to balance work and family.
Name: Janice Min
Current Job: Co-president and chief creative officer, Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group; oversees The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.
Years at Job: 5
Previous Position: Editor-in-chief, Us Weekly
Lives in: Los Angeles
At Next Issue we are, above all, a magazine fan club. From time to time we’ll chat with some of the talented editors, writers and designers who put the issues together. We kick off this series with an editor you’d love to sit next to at a dinner party: Janice Min, who has worked at—and run—some of our favorite magazines of all time. Now at the helm of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, she is moving beyond legacy publishing to successfully bridge the realms of journalism, television, social media, fashion and pop culture. She hosts star-studded events and roundtable discussions to celebrate women in the entertainment industry. Oh, and did we mention she has three kids? Yeah, she’s that woman. And we love her for it.
Next Issue Media: Most NIM subscribers are probably seeing The Hollywood Reporter for the first time. What do you want them to know about the brand?
Janice Min: Given our online reach, they’ve probably read many of our stories before, whether the pieces were about their favorite star, TV show or even Donald Trump, a recent cover subject. What will be new for your readers is to see the full issues, out every week. The magazine is regarded by many as the Bible of Hollywood. Everyone who is anyone here reads it, knows it and, some might say, is obsessed with it. When The Hollywood Reporter lands on the desks of the power players in town on Wednesday mornings, I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say nearly everyone stops, looks and listens—even if they don’t read everything right then and there.
NIM: What THR cover have you loved most? Who/what is your white whale?
JM: Almost every week, I say the same thing—“Wow, I loved that cover.” So that’s a tough one to answer. The cover debuting on Next Issue, on the TV show Empire, is sort of quintessential Hollywood Reporter: a big, sexy story that celebrates success but also is smarter than your average entertainment fare and takes you deep inside what is really going on vis-a-vis this show and Hollywood. The success of Empire says volumes about race here, the struggle of broadcast TV and how one great original idea can turn the town upside down. We were on the set in Chicago and in the show’s writers room in Beverly Hills. We break news and have some moments in the story sure to generate controversy and discussion. It’s also photographed exceptionally well. The photos in The Hollywood Reporter are something to behold. I’m glad a larger audience finally can be exposed to that. It is a truly beautiful publication that makes the most of the luxury of print.
I don’t have a white whale, because the target is always moving. I see how some TV shows often book a big name thinking it means that person will bring in big ratings, and more often than not they don’t—because you still need a compelling reason to feature someone. I live in the moment with the staff with the goal of trying to hit the right person at the right time. This is an extreme and sort of obvious example, but our Donald Trump cover in August, the first magazine cover he did as a candidate, hit that note. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway’s Hamilton, did as well.
But back to your question . . . I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like a Barack Obama cover before he is out of office, given the role Hollywood has played in his tenure.
NIM: When you first moved to Los Angeles, you had been the editor of a brand that had a reputation for being, well, tough on celebrities. Did any stars give you a hard time?
JM: No. You realize when you are here how little decision-making is done by the stars, and that outside of an increasingly shrinking group of actors, the power is held by the people who really run the town: executives, studio chiefs, agents and people with big money. You also realize how stars, to quote a phrase coined by my last shop, really are just like us. The vast majority of them have job anxiety and really need attention and the media to stay front of mind. They remind me of politicians: They have to work really hard and hustle to stay in office.
“Don’t tell people what you want to be. Just be it.”
NIM: As editors we aim for perfection, but sometimes things go wrong. Talk about a time you got something wrong. How did you handle it?
JM: We had Bill Cosby on the cover of the Emmy issue, this same issue this time last year. It was an excerpt from the biography by Mark Whitaker, a fine editor and writer. The cover definitely glorified the man, and the book didn’t talk about any of the previous allegations regarding sexual assault against him. A few weeks later, the allegations began resurfacing, the comedian Hannibal Buress called him out as a rapist and well . . . there you go. How did we handle it? It’s not like you get redos in media. You move on to the next.
NIM: As red carpet season gets underway, can you address the “#AskHerMore” movement? How might it change the tenor of this year’s conversation?
JM: The new wave of feminism coming out of Hollywood is one of the greatest movements of our time. I love to see how in the five years since I started at The Hollywood Reporter the conversations we were having about gender, race and sexuality have been upended and challenged. Social media is awful in many ways, but also the greatest weapon in giving voice to people without a platform otherwise.
We recently did a cover story on Straight Outta Compton, and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were reflecting on the song “Cop Killer” and how much controversy there was around their debut N.W.A album. There was a very simple narrative back then, of how cops were good and infallible and that these guys were thugs, and Tipper Gore was losing her mind over it. And then it takes 20 years to realize how complicated and painful the conversation actually is around law enforcement and disenfranchised communities. As a child, you sometimes think naively that all these issues have been resolved, that feminism and the move towards civil rights were things of the ’60s and ’70s. Then as you grow up, you realize the conversation is still going. And it’s gratifying to see how many people in Hollywood and music have a profound impact on that conversation.
NIM: What do you recall about working at People in the early ’90s that you still use today?
JM: Write about things people will want to read about, not just things you care about. I also learned the economy of packing lots of information into tight spaces, making every word count. What is different today, I suppose, is that at People, the whole magazine felt as if it was written by the same person, and that was part of the appeal. Bylines didn’t matter; you were kind of making hamburgers on a line that America loved to eat, and if the mandate is that the Big Mac gets two pickles, don’t put on three pickles. But I believe people consume information very differently now. Nobody wants information fed from a ’bot.
NIM: Your editorship at THR has demonstrated that even a trade publication can be reinvented with eye-catching photography, smart design and great reporting. What magazine brands are inspiring you?
JM: I’m not sure what inspires me, but I can tell you what I read with regularity: New York, The New Yorker when I’m on a trip, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. If you have the word ‘New’ in your title, I guess I’ve already bought in! Personally, I don’t think the New York Observer should have taken New York out of their title, but that’s just me.
NIM: Any tips on leading a successful reinvention that you care to share?
JM: [Don’t] let all the various entities that will be part of the noise get in your head. All the window dressing in the world, like a fancy website or launch party, can never hide bad or middling editorial. All I really cared about in getting The Hollywood Reporter off the ground was to get an audience to start talking about the quality and interesting and compulsive nature of our pieces. And they did. And to make Hollywood stories bigger, smarter and sexier and more relevant beyond the small community here. I sometimes say to the staff, if no one cares about your story or nothing in it is promotable, then you have just the sound of one hand clapping. You wasted your time. You could spend millions on a marketing campaign, but if you don’t actually produce compelling content, you’re just bullshitting. I will often write a note on stories: “Don’t say it, show it.” That probably applies to any kind of rebrand of anything. Don’t tell people what you want to be. Just be it.
NIM: You recently interviewed Donald Trump for THR. What did you learn sitting in a room with him that you didn’t know before? Do you see yourself interviewing more presidential candidates? Who would you like to interview next?
JM: I learned that he cares about and knows a lot more about Hollywood than some would suspect. Also, I learned from personal experience that Donald Trump is so compellingly charismatic in person that it’s hard to not get caught up in his swirl, to find him charming, no matter your politics. I don’t know whom I would want to interview next. I’m not complaining, because it ended up so great, but the Trump interview happened during my vacation. And trust me, I needed one!
NIM: Speaking of which, you’re a mother of three. What’s your family/personal motto?
JM: Very few emails require you to stop and answer them right then and there. If it’s really important, someone will call.
NIM: Lightning round.
Apple or Android?
NIM: Football or baseball?
NIM: Kardashian or Duggar?
JM: Easy. Whichever clan is not harboring child molesters or Ashley Madison users.
NIM: Fitz or Jake?
JM: I just met Tony Goldwyn and he told me he loves The Hollywood Reporter. He may have been lying, but the narcissist in me then has to choose Fitz (nicely played, Tony Goldwyn).
NIM: Cable or streaming?
NIM: Vegan or Paleo (or salad or fries)?
JM: I live in L.A. No brainer. Vegan.
NIM: Taylor or Katy?
NIM: Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar?
JM: Harper’s Bazaar is gorgeous, but Anna Wintour is the most powerful person in fashion. How can you not want to see how that expresses itself in content? Also, I have huge respect for how Vogue has broadened what it traditionally is, bringing so many other people under its tent in its coverage of politics, sports and more diverse representation of individuals and subjects. Vogue is a fashion brand that uses fashion as a lens into wider and more interesting stories—sort of in the same way we use Hollywood as our excuse to be as interesting as possible.
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