Michael Wolff (journalist)

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This article is about the journalist. For other uses, see Michael Wolff (disambiguation).
Michael Wolff
Michael Wolff.jpg
Wolff in Rome, Italy (June 2008)
Born (1953-08-27) August 27, 1953 (age 63)
Occupation Columnist, Internet entrepreneur, television commentator
Nationality American
Alma mater Vassar College, Columbia University
Spouse Alison Anthoine

Michael Wolff (born August 27, 1953) is an American author, essayist, and journalist who is a regular columnist and contributor to USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter, and the UK edition of GQ.[1]

Early life[edit]

Michael Wolff was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Lewis A. Wolff, an advertising man, and Marguerite V. Wolff, a newspaper reporter. He went to Columbia College of Columbia University in New York City. While a student at Columbia, he worked for The New York Times as a copy boy.

He published his first magazine article in the New York Times Magazine in 1974: a profile of Angela Atwood, a neighbor of his family. As a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, she helped kidnap Patricia Hearst. Shortly afterwards he left the Times and became a contributing writer to the New Times, a bi-weekly news magazine started by John Larsen and George Hirsch. Wolff's first book was White Kids (1979), a collection of essays.


After publishing his first book, Wolff received an advance to write a novel, which he never finished. A college friend, Steven J. Hueglin, who had become a successful Wall Street banker, asked for Wolff's help in evaluating investments in media companies. He pulled him into a career as a media business entrepreneur.

In 1988, Wolff took over the management of the magazine Campaigns & Elections. He became involved in advising start-up magazines, including Wired. He also raised financing for media companies and new businesses.

In 1991, he launched Michael Wolff & Company, Inc., specializing in book-packaging. Its first project, Where We Stand, was a book with a companion PBS series. The company's next major project was creating one of the first guides to the Internet, albeit in book form. Net Guide was published by Random House.[2] On the eve of launching the title as a monthly magazine, the incipient magazine was bought by CMP Media, the publisher of computer magazines.

Wolff's company continued to publish a succession of book-form Internet guides. In 1995, the company took a round of venture capital investment, with shareholders including Patricof & Co., the New York venture capital firm. It began to convert its print directories into a website and digital directory called Your Personal Network. At one point, the company was valued by bankers seeking to take the company public at more than $100 million. The venture collapsed in 1997, and Wolff was expelled from the company.

Return to writing[edit]

Wolff returned to writing, from which he had been absent for more than ten years, and recounted the details of the financing, positioning, personalities, and ultimate breakdown of a start-up Internet company. The book, Burn Rate, became a bestseller. Wolff briefly worked as a weekly columnist for The Industry Standard, an Internet trade magazine published by IDG.[3]

In August 1998, he was recruited by New York magazine to write a weekly column. Over the next six years, he wrote more than 300 columns, solidifying his reputation as provocative and knowledgeable writer about the media industry.[4] The entrepreneur Steven Brill, the media banker Steven Rattner, and the book publisher Judith Regan, were criticized by him.[5][6][7][8]

Wolff has been nominated for the National Magazine Award three times, winning twice.[9] His second National Magazine Award was for a series of columns he wrote from the media center in the Persian Gulf as the Iraq War started in 2003. His book, Autumn of the Moguls (2004), which predicted the mainstream media crisis that hit later in the decade, was based on many of his New York magazine columns.[10]

In 2004, when New York magazine's owners, Primedia, Inc., put the title up for sale, Wolff helped assemble a group of investors, including New York Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, to back him in acquiring the magazine.[11][12] Although the group believed it had made a successful bid, Primedia decided to sell the magazine to the investment banker Bruce Wasserstein.[13]

In 2005, Wolff joined Vanity Fair as its media columnist.[14] In 2007, with Patrick Spain, the founder of Hoover's, and Caroline Miller, the former editor-in-chief of New York magazine, he launched Newser, a news curator.[15]

That year, he also wrote a biography of Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Owns the News, based on more than 50 hours of conversation with Murdoch, and extensive access to his business associates and his family. The book was published in 2008.[16][17][not in citation given] That year he also began writing a daily column for Newser.[18]

In 2010, Wolff became editor of Adweek. He lasted in the job barely a year before stepping down.[19]


In its review of Wolff's book Burn Rate, Brill's Content criticized Wolff for "apparent factual errors" and said that more than a dozen of the subjects he mentioned complained that Wolff had "invented or changed quotes" that he attributed to them.[20]

In a 2004 cover story for The New Republic, Michelle Cottle wrote that Wolff was "uninterested in the working press," preferring to focus on "the power players—the moguls" and was "fixated on culture, style, buzz, and money, money, money." She also noted that "the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created—springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events." Calling his writing "a whirlwind of flourishes and tangents and asides that often stray so far from the central point that you begin to wonder whether there is a central point", she quoted one daily New York columnist as saying "I find it nearly impossible to read his columns. They’re flabby. I don’t know what the fuck he’s trying to say." One journalist who knew Wolff told Cottle, "He can't write. He doesn't report."[21] Cottle subsequently called Wolff "possibly the bitchiest media big foot writing today."[22]

"Wolff's prose is difficult to hack through," wrote Erik Wemple in The Washington Post, adding that Wolff "is the Foxconn of the pointless, comma-laden aside." [23]

The Columbia Journalism Review criticized Wolff in 2010 when he suggested that The New York Times was aggressively covering the breaking News International phone hacking scandal as a way of attacking News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch. CJR called Wolff's analysis "pathetic", "disgusting", "twisted", and based on "zero evidence".[24]

His former employer, New York Magazine, has called him an "angry man for pay" and a "media provocateur".[25] Howard Kurtz once said, "Michael is rarely impressed by anyone other than himself." [26]

In November 2016, Wolff evoked criticism for stating that journalists should serve as "stenographers." [27] Charlie Pierce called Wolff's comment "an incredible pile of bullshit."[27]

Personal life[edit]

Wolff was married Alison Anthoine, an attorney.[28] Wolff began divorce proceedings from Anthoine in 2009.[28]


  • The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch
  • Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet
  • Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures With the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media
  • Where We Stand
  • White Kids
  • Television Is the New Television: The Unexpected Triumph of Old Media In the Digital Age



  1. ^ "Michael Wolff", search page, GQ magazine
  2. ^ ASIN 0440223903
  3. ^ "The Industry Standard Announces Powerful Editorial Line-Up; Renowned Author Michael Wolff And Web Pioneer Carl Steadman To Pen Weekly Columns For IDG Weekly". Mmit.stc.sh.cn (April 15, 1998). Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  4. ^ Michael Wolff Archive – New York Magazine. Nymag.com. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  5. ^ Neyfakh, Leon (December 15, 2008). "Michael Wolff Wonders: Why's Judith Regan After the Spotlight Again?". The New York Observer. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  6. ^ Wolff, Michael (August 1, 2011). "The Trouble with Judith". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  7. ^ Koblin, John (October 26, 2008). "Cold Case File: The Missing Daily News Steve Rattner Maureen White Story". The New York Observer. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  8. ^ Kurtz, Howard (May 30, 2001). "New York's Media Hound; Columnist Michael Wolff Stalks the Pack and Goes for the Throat". The Washington Post. 
  9. ^ National Magazine Awards. Cursor.org. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  10. ^ Wolff, Michael (September 16, 2004). "Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media". Harper Business. ISBN 978-0-06-662110-4. 
  11. ^ Yglesias, Matthew. (October 23, 2003) "Who needs New York magazine?", Slate Magazine, Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  12. ^ Carr, David (December 15, 2003). "Bid for New York Magazine: A Dance of Money and Ego". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Michael Wolff, On His Own (But Not Really)", Media Features – Media]. Women's Wear Daily (WWD), July 2, 2009). Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  14. ^ Wolff, Michael (November 20009). "Big Bad Wolff". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  15. ^ "Can Michael Wolff's Newser colonize the news frontier?". Los Angeles Times blog. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  16. ^ Carr, David (December 28, 2008). "Plowing Through the Door". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  17. ^ ASIN 0385526121
  18. ^ "Off The Grid". Newser. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  19. ^ Peters, Jeremy W. (October 17, 2011). "Michael Wolff Steps Down as Editor of Adweek". New York Times blog. 
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ "Wolff Trapped"
  22. ^ "Wolff enters catfight", The New Republic
  23. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/if-only-we-all-could-write-as-well-as-michael-wolff/2012/03/20/gIQA3tchPS_blog.html?utm_term=.7011b2b17828
  24. ^ [2]
  25. ^ http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/michael-wolff-hates-restaurants-loves-attention.html
  26. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/if-only-we-all-could-write-as-well-as-michael-wolff/2012/03/20/gIQA3tchPS_blog.html?utm_term=.7011b2b17828
  27. ^ a b "Michael Wolff Mocked for Saying Journalists Covering Trump Should Just Transcribe What He Says". Mediaite. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  28. ^ a b Staff, PageSix com (2009-03-30). "BALD TRUTH: DIVORCE FOR WOLFF". Page Six. Retrieved 2016-11-25.