Christina Hambley Brown
21 November 1953
|Alma mater||St Anne's College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Journalist, magazine editor, columnist, talk-show host, author|
(m. 1981; died 2020)
Christina Hambley Brown, Lady Evans CBE (born 21 November 1953), is a journalist, magazine editor, columnist, talk-show host, and author of The Diana Chronicles, a biography of Diana, Princess of Wales. Born a British citizen, she now holds joint citizenship after she took United States citizenship in 2005, following her emigration in 1984 to edit Vanity Fair.
Having been editor-in-chief of Tatler magazine at the age of 25, she rose to prominence in the American media industry as the editor of Vanity Fair from 1984 to 1992 and of The New Yorker from 1992 to 1998. She was founding editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, serving from 2008 to 2013.
As an editor, she has received four George Polk Awards, five Overseas Press Club awards, and ten National Magazine Awards. In 2000, she was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to overseas journalism, and in 2007 was inducted into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame.
Tina Brown was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, and she and her elder brother, Christopher Hambley Brown (who became a film producer) grew up in the village of Little Marlow, in Buckinghamshire. Her father, George Hambley Brown, was active in the British film industry producing the early Miss Marple films in the series starring Margaret Rutherford, based on the character created by Agatha Christie. His other films included The Chiltern Hundreds (1949); Hotel Sahara (1951), starring Yvonne De Carlo; and Guns at Batasi (1964), starring Richard Attenborough and Mia Farrow.
In 1939, George had an early marriage to the actress Maureen O'Hara; according to O'Hara, it was never consummated, owing to her parents' intervention, and it was annulled in 1941. He later met and married Tina's mother, Bettina Kohr in 1948, who was an assistant to Laurence Olivier. Bettina was of part Iraqi descent; Tina recounted, "She was dark and I never knew why." In her later years, Bettina wrote for an English-language magazine for expatriates in Spain where she and her husband lived in retirement until moving to New York in the early eighties to be with their daughter and grandchildren. She died in 1998.
In Brown's own words she was considered "an extremely subversive influence" as a child, resulting in her expulsion from three boarding schools. Offences included organising a demonstration to protest against the school's policy of allowing a change of underwear only three times a week, referring to her headmistress's bosoms as "unidentified flying objects" in a journal entry, and writing a play about her school being blown up and a public lavatory being erected in its place.
Brown entered the University of Oxford at the age of 17. She studied at St Anne's College, and graduated with a BA in English Literature. As an undergraduate, she wrote for Isis, the university's literary magazine, to which she contributed interviews with the journalist Auberon Waugh and the actor Dudley Moore. Brown's sharp, witty prose led to her being published by the New Statesman while she was still an undergraduate at Oxford. Her friendship with Waugh served as a boost to her writing career, as he used his influence to ensure that her ability was recognised. Later, she went on to date the writer Martin Amis.
While still at Oxford, she won The Sunday Times National Student Drama Award for her one-act play Under the Bamboo Tree. A subsequent play, Happy Yellow, in 1977 was mounted at the London fringe Bush Theatre and was later performed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
In 1973, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh introduced Brown's writings to Harold Evans, editor of The Sunday Times and in 1974 she was given freelance assignments in the UK by Ian Jack, the paper's features editor and in the US by its colour magazine edited by Godfrey Smith. When a relationship developed between Brown and Evans, she resigned[when?] to write for the rival The Sunday Telegraph. Evans divorced in 1978 and, on 20 August 1981, he and Brown married at Grey Gardens, the East Hampton, New York, home of The Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. They lived together in New York City until Evans' death on 23 September 2020. They had two children: a son, George, born in 1986, and a daughter, Isabel, born in 1990. Evans was knighted in 2004.
After graduating, while doing freelance reporting, Brown was invited to write a weekly column by the literary humour magazine, Punch. These articles and her freelance contributions to The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph earned her the Catherine Pakenham Award for the best journalist under 25. Some of the writings from this era formed part of her first collection Loose Talk, published by Michael Joseph.
In 1979, at the age of 25 Brown was invited to edit the tiny, almost extinct society magazine Tatler by its new owner, the Australian real estate millionaire Gary Bogard and transformed it into a modern glossy magazine with covers by celebrated photographers like Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton, and David Bailey, and fashion by Michael Roberts. Tatler featured writers from Brown's eclectic circle including Julian Barnes, Dennis Potter, Auberon Waugh, Brian Sewell, Georgina Howell (whom Brown appointed deputy editor), and Nicholas Coleridge (later President of Conde Nast International). Brown herself wrote content for every issue, contributing irreverent surveys of the upper classes. She travelled through Scotland to portray the owners' stately homes. She also wrote short satirical profiles of eligible London bachelors under the pen-name Rosie Boot.
Tatler covered the emergence of Lady Diana Spencer, soon to become Princess of Wales. Brown joined NBC's Tom Brokaw in running commentary for The Today Show on the royal wedding on 29 July 1981. Tatler increased its sales from 10,000 to 40,000. In 1982, when S. I. ("Si") Newhouse Jr., owner of Condé Nast Publications, bought Tatler, Brown resigned to become a full-time writer again. The break didn't last long and Brown was lured back to Conde Nast. This year she also hosted several editions of the long running television series Film82 for BBC1 as a guest presenter.
In 1983, Brown was brought to New York by Newhouse to advise on Vanity Fair, a title that he had resurrected earlier that year. (Vanity Fair had previously ceased publication in 1936.) Edited first by Richard Locke and then by Leo Lerman, it was dying with an unenviable circulation of 200,000 and 12 pages of advertising. She stayed on as a contributing editor for a brief time, and then was named editor-in-chief on 1 January 1984. She recalls that upon taking over the magazine she found it to be "pretentious, humourless. It wasn't too clever, it was just dull."
The first contract writer she hired was not a writer but a movie producer whom she met at a dinner party hosted by the writer Marie Brenner. The producer told her he was going to California for the trial of the strangler of his daughter. As solace, Brown suggested for him to keep a diary and his report (headlined Justice) proved the launch of the long magazine career of Dominick Dunne.
Early stories such as Justice and livelier covers brightened the prospects of the magazine. In addition, Brown signed up among others Marie Brenner, Gail Sheehy, Jesse Kornbluth, T.D. Allman, Lynn Herschberg, James Kaplan, Peter J. Boyer, John Richardson, James Atlas, Alex Shoumatoff and Ben Brantley. The magazine became a mix of celebrity and serious foreign and domestic reporting. Brown persuaded the novelist William Styron to write about his depression under the title Darkness Visible, which subsequently became a best-selling nonfiction book. At the same time Brown formed fruitful relationships with photographers Annie Leibovitz, Harry Benson, Herb Ritts, and Helmut Newton. Annie Leibovitz's portrayal of Jerry Hall, Diane Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg and others came to define Vanity Fair. Its most famous cover was August 1991's of a naked and pregnant Demi Moore.
Three notable stories appeared in Vanity Fair which helped the magazine gain attention and circulation: Harry Benson's cover shoot of Ronald and Nancy Reagan dancing in the White House; Helmut Newton's notorious portrait of accused murderer Claus von Bülow in his leathers with his mistress Andrea Reynolds with reporting by Dominick Dunne, and Brown's own cover story on Princess Diana in October 1985 titled The Mouse that Roared. It broke the news of the fracture in the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Those three stories from June to October 1985 saved the magazine after a year when rumors were rife that it was to be folded into The New Yorker.
Thereafter sales of Vanity Fair rose from 200,000 to 1.2 million. In 1988, she was named Magazine Editor of the Year by Advertising Age magazine. Advertising topped 1,440 pages in 1991 and with circulation revenues, especially from profitable single copy sales at $20 million, selling some 55 percent of copies on the newsstand, well above the industry average sell through of 42 percent. Despite this success, occasional references later appeared to Vanity Fair losing money. Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer who suggested as much in his book Power: Why Some People Have It – And Others Don't was quickly rebutted by Bernard Leser, president of Conde Nast USA during Brown's tenure. In a letter to the editor of the Evening Standard, Leser stated Pfeffer's claim was "absolutely false" and affirmed that they had indeed earned "a very healthy profit." Leo Scullin, an independent magazine consultant, called it a "successful launch of a franchise." Under Brown's editorship Vanity Fair won four National Magazine Awards, including a 1989 award for General Excellence.
One of her editorial decisions was in October 1990, two months after the first Gulf War had started, when she removed a picture of Marla Maples (a blonde) from the cover and replaced it with a photograph of Cher. The reason for her last minute decision, she told The Washington Post: "In light of the gulf crisis, we thought a brunette was more appropriate."
The New Yorker
In 1992, Brown accepted the company's invitation to become editor of The New Yorker, the fourth in its 73-year history and the first woman to hold the position, having been preceded by Harold Ross, William Shawn, and Robert Gottlieb. She has related in speeches that before taking over, she immersed herself in vintage New Yorkers, reading the issues produced by founding editor Harold Ross: "There was an irreverence, a lightness of touch as well as a literary voice that had been obscured in later years when the magazine became more celebrated and stuffy. ... Rekindling that DNA became my passion."
Anxieties that Brown might change the identity of The New Yorker as a cultural institution prompted a number of resignations. George Trow, who had been with the magazine for almost three decades, accused Brown of "kissing the ass of celebrity" in his resignation letter. (To which Brown reportedly replied, "I am distraught at your defection but since you never actually write anything I should say I am notionally distraught.") The departing Jamaica Kincaid described Brown as "a bully" and "Stalin in high heels."
But Brown had the support of some New Yorker stalwarts, including John Updike, Roger Angell, Brendan Gill, Lillian Ross, Calvin Tomkins, Janet Malcolm, Harold Brodkey and Philip Hamburger, as well as newer staffers like Adam Gopnik and Nancy Franklin. During her editorship she let 79 staffers go and engaged 50 new writers and editors, most of whom remain to this day, including David Remnick (whom she nominated as her successor), Malcolm Gladwell, Anthony Lane, Jane Mayer, Jeffrey Toobin, Hendrik Hertzberg, Simon Schama, Lawrence Wright, Connie Bruck, John Lahr, and editors Pamela McCarthy and Dorothy Wickenden. Brown introduced the concept of special double issues such as the annual fiction issue and the Holiday Season cartoon issue. She also cooperated with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates to devote a whole issue to the theme Black in America.
Brown broke the magazine's longstanding reluctance to treat photography seriously in 1992, when she invited Richard Avedon to be its first staff photographer. She also approved controversial covers from a new crop of artists, including Edward Sorel's October 1992 cover of a punk rock passenger sprawled in the backseat of an elegant horse-drawn carriage, which may have been Brown's self-mocking riposte to fears that she would downgrade the magazine. A year later a national controversy was provoked by her publication of Art Spiegelman's Valentine's Day cover of a Jewish man and a black woman in an embracing kiss, a comment on the mounting racial tensions between blacks and ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York.
During Brown's tenure, the magazine received four George Polk Awards, five Overseas Press Club Awards, and ten National Magazine Awards, including a 1995 award for General Excellence, the first in the magazine's history. Newsstand sales rose 145 percent. The New Yorker's circulation increased to 807,935 for the second half of 1997, up from 658,916 during the corresponding period in 1992. Critics maintained it was hemorrhaging money, but Newhouse remained supportive, viewing the magazine under Brown as a start-up (which routinely lose money): "It was practically a new magazine. She added topicality, photography, color. She did what we would have done if we invented the New Yorker from scratch. To do all that was costly. We knew it would be." Under Brown, its economic fortunes improved every year: in 1995 losses were about $17 million, in 1996 $14 million, and in 1997 $11 million.
In 1998, Brown resigned from The New Yorker following an invitation from Harvey and Bob Weinstein of Miramax Films (then owned by The Walt Disney Company) to be the chairman of a new multi-media company they intended to start with a new magazine, book company, and television show. The Hearst company came in as partners with Miramax.
The departing verdicts after Brown's New Yorker tenure included:
She had to move fast. She was decisive ... went against the tradition of popular culture unfriendly to the written word. And what was she doing? She was pumping energy and life into a magazine devoted to publishing aesthetically and intellectually demanding writing. She saved The New Yorker.
The magazine will remain smarter and braver – more open to argument, and incomparably less timid – for her presence here.— Adam Gopnik (writer)
I assume we can now look forward to Miramax becoming a shallow, celebrity obsessed money loser she made The New Yorker.— Randy Cohen (writer)
She is the best magazine editor alive. What more can I say?
The most important thing, I think, has been [Tina Brown's] effort to bring together the intellectual material and the streets. When she was in charge, despite all the complaints from the old New Yorker crowd, one got a much stronger sense of the variousness of American society than one did under the editorship of perhaps the rightfully sainted Mr. Shawn.
Tina Brown next created Talk magazine, a monthly glossy, and appointed Jonathan Burnham and Susan Mercandetti to manage Talk Books. The magazine was due to be launched during a party at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City but was banned by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who did not feel it was an appropriate use of the site. The star-studded event mixing political leaders, writers, and Hollywood, was then moved to Liberty Island, where on 2 August 1999 more than 800 guests – including Madonna, Salman Rushdie, Demi Moore, and George Plimpton - arrived by barge for a picnic dinner at the feet of the Statue of Liberty under thousands of Japanese lanterns and a Grucci fireworks display. An interview with Hillary Clinton in its very first issue caused an immediate political sensation when she claimed that the abuse her husband suffered as a child led to his adult philandering. The Washington Post reported that at times, "Talk seemed more interested in promoting such Miramax stars as Gwyneth Paltrow than in politics."
Despite having achieved a circulation of 670,000 Talk magazine's publication was abruptly halted in January 2002 in the wake of the advertising recession following the 9/11 attacks. It was Brown's first very public failure but she said she had no regrets about embarking on the project. She told Charlotte Edwardes of The Telegraph in 2002: "My reputation rests on four magazines – three great successes, one that was a great experiment. I don't feel in any way let down. No big career doesn't have one flame out in it and there's nobody more boring than the undefeated." Talk Media was founded in July 1998 by Miramax Films, Tina Brown and Ron Galotti to publish books and Talk magazine and produce television programs. Talk Media formed a joint venture with Hearst Magazines for the magazine only in February 1999. Brown worked with the book division's editor-in chief Jonathan Burnham. She recalled in October 2017 at the time of allegations of sexual assault being made against Harvey Weinstein: "Strange contracts pre-dating us would suddenly surface, book deals with no deadline attached authored by attractive or nearly famous women."
Talk Miramax Books flourished as a boutique publishing house until it was detached from Miramax in 2005 and made part of Hyperion at Disney. Out of 42 books published during Brown's time, 11 have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List including Leadership by Rudy Giuliani, Leap of Faith by Queen Noor of Jordan, and Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright.
Brown hosted a series of specials for CNBC. The network followed up by signing her to host a weekly talk show of politics and culture titled Topic [A] With Tina Brown, which debuted on 4 May 2003. The program welcomed guests ranging from political figures, such as the Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, and Senator John McCain, to celebrities, such as George Clooney and Annette Bening. Topic A struggled to find an audience on Sunday nights, airing after a day of infomercials. It averaged 75,000 viewers in 2005, about the same as The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (79,000) and John McEnroe's McEnroe (75,000.) On being offered a lucrative deal with tight deadlines to write a book about Princess Diana, Brown resigned, airing her last Topic A interviews on 29 May 2005.
The Diana Chronicles
Brown's biography of Diana, Princess of Wales was published just before the 10th anniversary of her death in June 2007. The Diana Chronicles made The New York Times bestseller list for hardback nonfiction, with two weeks in the number one position.
The Daily Beast
This section may contain material unrelated or insufficiently related to the topic of the article; the off-topic material is the topic of another article, The Daily Beast. (September 2018)
On 6 October 2008, Brown teamed up with Barry Diller to launch The Daily Beast, an online news magazine that mixes original journalism with news aggregation. The website's name comes from the fictional newspaper in Evelyn Waugh's 1938 novel Scoop.
The Daily Beast quoted Christopher Buckley, son of William F. Buckley, Jr., when he chose The Daily Beast rather than the magazine his father founded (National Review), to announce he could not support the Republican candidate in the 2008 presidential election: "Sorry, Dad, I'm voting for Obama." Early references of The Daily Beast came in some awards: Online Journalism Award 2009 for Online Commentary/Blogging, Christopher Buckley; OMMA Awards 2009 Winner – Politics; Winner – News; MinOnline Top 21 Social Media Superstars 2009 for Tina Brown; MinOnline 2010 Best of the Web Awards: New Site (co-winner); Webby Award nominations for Best Practices and Best News 2009
In August 2010, Time's review of the 50 Best Websites of 2010 named The Daily Beast among the top five news and information sites. (The Onion at 16, The Guardian at 17, The Daily Beast at 18, National Geographic at 19, and WikiLeaks at 20)
It's just not the caliber of writers flocking to The Daily Beast that is making the site a must-read for any serious news consumer. It's also the willingness of the Beast's editors to slash and sift the day's top headlines so you can quickly digest the most essential elements. As a news site, it's something of a triple threat: a trendsetter, an insightful and analytical clearinghouse of events and ideas, and thanks to the thorough and easy-to-scan Cheat Sheet, quite the time saver.
The Daily Beast's writers include Christopher Buckley, Peter Beinart, Les Gelb, Joshua DuBois, Mark McKinnon, Meghan McCain, John Avlon, Lucinda Franks, Bruce Riedel, Lloyd Grove, Tunku Varadarajan, and Reza Aslan.
In a joint venture with Perseus Book Group, The Daily Beast formed a new imprint, Beast Books, that focuses on publishing timely titles of no more than 50,000 words by Daily Beast writers – first as e-books, and then as paperbacks in as little as four months. The first Beast Book was entitled Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America by John P. Avlon.
Partnering with Diane von Furstenberg, Vital Voices and the UN Foundation in 2010, The Daily Beast brought some of the world's most inspiring female leaders together at the Hudson Theatre in New York City for the first annual Women in the World Summit. The mission of the three-day summit was to focus on the global challenges facing women, from equal rights and education, to human slavery, literacy and the power of the media and technology to effect change in women's lives. Attendees included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep, Leymah Gbowee, Sunitha Krishnan, Madeleine Albright, Edna Adan Ismail, Queen Rania of Jordan, Cherie Blair and Valerie Jarrett.
On 12 November 2010, The Daily Beast and Newsweek announced that they would merge their operations in a joint venture to be owned equally by Sidney Harman and IAC/InterActiveCorp. The new entity was named The Newsweek Daily Beast Company with Tina Brown as Editor-in-Chief and Stephen Colvin as CEO. On 25 July 2012, the owners of Newsweek Daily Beast said the magazine would eventually cease publishing a printed version and would transition to online-only. The reason given was that declining revenues and increasing costs made maintaining the print magazine no longer feasible. Critics quickly blamed Brown for failing to turn the magazine around.
In the last week of December 2012, the final printed issue of Newsweek (under its then owners) was published with a 31 Dec date. A cover headline reflected its plans for an all-digital future, in the form of a Twitter hashtag: "#LastPrintIssue." An editorial column by Brown and several articles in the issue reflected on the magazine's history of reportage, with a special emphasis on the two years between Harman's takeover and the end of the print magazine, which featured extensive coverage of a number of major world events, including the Arab Spring, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the US presidential election of 2012. This dramatic abandonment of print was a sign of the times, and short lived: the print edition returned with the sale of the magazine after Tina Brown's departure.
On 11 September 2013, Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown announced her departure. Initial reports of her contract not being renewed were refuted in a statement issued by Barry Diller, IAC/InterActiveCorp's Executive Director:
I want to extol Tina Brown. She created the Beast in 2008 from a blank page, and from the beginning until today it has grown in circulation and brand recognition, even throughout the two unfortunate Newsweek years. If you removed the failed experiment to revive Newsweek, the story of The Daily Beast is one of excellence in reporting, in design, and in digital distribution. That to me is the lede of her tenure. That she chose, and she did, to leave the Beast, with all the attendant media judging, should not obscure her truly outstanding work as the editor and creator over the last five years at The Daily Beast.
Brown's resignation also caused much speculation in the media in regard to the future of the website. This uncertainty was promptly addressed in a memo to staffers by interim CEO Rhona Murphy, "The Daily Beast is not for sale and is not closing. IAC has approved in concept the operating budget for 2014." In the words of executive editor John Avlon, "The Daily Beast roars on."
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