Kit Rachlis

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Kit Rachlis
Rachlis by Casey.jpg
Photo by Forest Casey, Los Angeles, CA
Born Christopher Rachlis
(1951-12-27) December 27, 1951 (age 63)
Paris
Education Yale
Occupation Editor
Notable credit(s) Senior editor, California Sunday (2014-); editor-in-chief, The American Prospect (2011-2014); editor, Los Angeles magazine (2000-2009); editor-in-chief, LA Weekly (1988-1993)

Kit Rachlis (born December 27, 1951) is an American journalist and editor who has held top posts at The Village Voice, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, The American Prospect, and most recently California Sunday. Rachlis is best known as a practitioner of the long-form nonfiction narrative, a literary tradition that has been dubbed "an endangered species" as print has struggled to adapt to the digital age but that has recently enjoyed a renaissance.[1][2]

Early life and family[edit]

Rachlis is the son of Eugene Rachlis, an author, book publisher, and magazine editor, and Mary Katherine (Mickey) Rachlis, an economics correspondent for the Journal of Commerce who wrote under the byline M.K. Sharp.[3] He was born in Paris, France, where his father was serving as press attaché for the Marshall Plan, and raised in New York City. He attended Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned a B.A. in American studies from Yale in 1975.[4]

Early career[edit]

Rachlis entered journalism as a pop music critic, reviewing albums for Rolling Stone that included 1970s works by Bob Dylan, Blondie, The Cars, Tom Waits, and Elvis Costello.[5] His critique of Neil Young was included in Greil Marcus's Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island. [6] From 1977 to 1984, Rachlis was music editor and arts editor of the alternative weekly Boston Phoenix, then went on to serve as executive editor of The Village Voice until 1988.

Career at LA Weekly[edit]

In 1988, Rachlis moved cross-country to become editor-in-chief of the fledgling and flamboyant LA Weekly. Under his direction it earned a reputation as a bastion of smart and stylish writing, and his hires, including Harold Meyerson, Steve Erickson, and Tom Carson, would become some of the city’s most sophisticated cultural and political voices.[7]

Although he was widely credited with professionalizing the paper and cementing its journalistic credibility, some colleagues felt that Rachlis's sensibilities were too mainstream for the rambunctious alt-weekly universe. Former columnist Marc Cooper would later write that under Rachlis the Weekly became "more slick, professional, better-edited but flatter, less willing to gamble and risk." [8]

In 1993, Rachlis was fired in a power struggle with publisher Michael Sigman. At least half a dozen Rachlis loyalists resigned in protest, including Michael Ventura, John Powers, Rubén Martínez, and Ella Taylor, as well as Carson and Erickson.[7]

Career at Los Angeles Times[edit]

Rachlis joined the L.A. Times in 1994, first as a senior editor at the paper's Sunday magazine, then as a senior projects editor with oversight of the "Literary Team," an elite stable of feature writers freed from the bonds of daily journalism. It was during this period that Rachlis's renown as a "writer's editor" took on legendary proportions, as he would use his position to grant reporters months or even a year to produce stories that routinely approached 10,000 words and occasionally exceeded 20,000. Rachlis had a hand in J.R. Moehringer's Pulitzer Prize-winning feature about the community of Gee's Bend, Alabama, in 1999. When Moehringer later wrote his bestselling memoir The Tender Bar, he saluted Rachlis in the acknowledgments as "The Master." [9] Rachlis also worked closely with national correspondent Barry Siegel, a future Pulitzer winner who would later be named director of the literary journalism program at the University of California, Irvine.

Career at Los Angeles magazine[edit]

Rachlis was lured away from the newspaper business in 2000 by media conglomerate Emmis Communications, which had just bought Los Angeles magazine for more than $30 million and was seeking an editor-an-chief with the literary credentials to reinvigorate what had become a notoriously fickle publication. The New York Times, noting that Rachlis was the fourth editor in five years, said the magazine had been through "more makeovers than Cher." [10] Rather than rely on freelancers, Rachlis made it his first order of business to create a home on the payroll for staff writers, raiding the L.A. Times for veteran reporters Amy Wallace and Jesse Katz, and later adding Dave Gardetta and Steve Oney to the masthead. The magazine's newfound heft was evidenced by Wallace's 13,000-word profile of Variety editor Peter Bart in 2001, a story that accused Bart of boorish and unethical behavior, and that resulted in his suspension.[11]

Although Rachlis would encounter critics on all sides—those who thought the magazine was still frothy and those who thought it had grown ponderous—he guided it to an unprecedented run of success, both critical and commercial. During his tenure, Los Angeles was a finalist for seven National Magazine Awards and earned more City and Regional Magazine Association awards, including 39 gold medals, than any other publication in the country.[12] Numerous articles edited by Rachlis made their way to anthologies, including Best American Magazine Writing, Best American Crime Writing, Best American Sports Writing, and Best American Essays.

The crisis that began rocking the American economy in 2008 took a heavy toll on Los Angeles magazine, as it did most print media. After celebrating the most lucrative year in the magazine's history, Rachlis was suddenly forced to preside over successive rounds of layoffs and salary reductions. On May 15, 2009, citing his "restlessness" in an e-mail to the staff, he announced his resignation, effective June 26. Emmis, which named Mary Melton as his successor, saluted Rachlis for "elevating Los Angeles magazine to must-read status."[13] He expressed an interest in writing a book about cheese.[14]

Career at The American Prospect[edit]

In 2011, Rachlis uprooted himself from Los Angeles to become editor of The American Prospect, the Washington, D.C.-based monthly political journal founded by Robert Kuttner, Robert Reich, and Paul Starr. The magazine, whose alumni include Vox.com co-founders Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, is committed "to working toward a society in which everyone gets a fair shot and is treated equally and with respect by our institutions."[15] Under Rachlis's guidance, The American Prospect shifted its focus from policy and opinion pieces to deeply reported narratives and profiles. The magazine's journalistic ambition helped capture a new audience, but as a nonprofit it struggled to gain financial footing, and Rachlis was thrust into an urgent fund-raising campaign in 2012 to keep the publication afloat.[16]

Career at California Sunday[edit]

Rachlis returned to Los Angeles in 2014 to become a senior editor at California Sunday Magazine, a new monthly insert in the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, and San Francisco Chronicle. Founded by the Bay Area team behind the live event series Pop-Up Magazine, California Sunday publishes “thoughtful, reported features and beautiful photography and illustrations set in California, the West, Asia, and Latin America, for a national audience."[17]

Personal[edit]

Rachlis lives in Los Angeles. He is married to the food and design writer Amy Albert.[18] He is divorced from the writer and critic Ariel Swartley, with whom he has a grown daughter, Austen.

Rachlis is known to be a cheese aficionado. He has volunteered at The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and occasionally served as a judge in local cheese competitions.[19]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Turner, Richard (May 29, 2009). "Media Meltdown: LA Mag Cans Its Feature Writers". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  2. ^ Rieder, Rem (June 5, 2013). "Long-form Journalism Makes Comeback". USA Today. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ Obituaries (Nov 12, 1986). "Eugene Rachlis, Editor, Author and Publisher". New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  4. ^ Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. USC Libraries http://www.usc.edu/libraries/partners/laih/fellows/KitRachlis.php. Retrieved March 31, 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Rachlis, Kit (1978). "This Year's Model: Elvis Costello". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ Marcus, Greil (2007), Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, Da Capo Press, retrieved March 31, 2012 
  7. ^ a b Blume, Howard; Pelisek, Christine (Dec 25, 2003). "Where Are They Now?". LA Weekly. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  8. ^ Cooper, Marc (Jan 9, 2009). "An Obituary for the LA Weekly". Global Grind. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  9. ^ Moehringer, JR (2005), The Tender Bar, Hyperion, retrieved March 31, 2012 
  10. ^ Carr, David (Feb 3, 2003). "Los Angeles Magazine Banks on a New Voice". New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  11. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (Aug 18, 2001). "Editor in Chief of Variety Is Suspended". New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  12. ^ Roderick, Kevin (June 2, 2009), "Los Angeles Mag Takes Bunch of Awards", LAObserved, retrieved March 31, 2012 
  13. ^ Roderick, Kevin (May 15, 2009). "Emmis Release on Rachlis Departure". LAObserved. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  14. ^ Roderick, Kevin (May 15, 2009). "Kit Rachlis Steps Down at Los Angeles Magazine". LAObserved. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  15. ^ About Us: The American Prospect, retrieved March 31, 2012 
  16. ^ Cogan, Marin (June 5, 2012), "The Last Days of The American Prospect?", GQ, retrieved December 4, 2014 
  17. ^ Swisher, Kara (September 15, 2014), "Can Print and Online Content Just Get Along? California Magazine Hopes So.", re/code, retrieved December 4, 2014 
  18. ^ Kelly, Janet Bennett (April 29, 2011). "OnLove: Amy Albert Weds Kit Rachlis". Washington Post. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  19. ^ Chef John Folse & Co. (April 13, 2007), Holy Cow! Cheese Declared Artisanal Treasure, retrieved March 31, 2012 

External links[edit]