Hearst Corp. on Wednesday named Debi Chirichella as president of its Magazines group, replacing Troy Young who resigned in July over explosive allegations that he had sexually harassed female staffers.
Chirichella had been named acting president after Young was ousted nearly four months ago following a New York Times story that detailed accusations of 52-year-old Young’s lewd and creepy behavior over the course of his five years at Hearst, including two years in the top magazine job.
A former Conde Nast executive who joined Hearst in 2011 as chief financial officer, 57-year-old Chirichella will now oversee titles including Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire and Town & Country.
Among the challenges she will face is rebuilding a division that has seen advertising plummet due to COVID-19 related pullbacks as well as negotiating the first-ever editorial contract with the 400 workers represented by the Writers Guild of America East.
“Debi has been a key part of our Magazine company leadership team for almost a decade and has a very strong command of all aspects of this business,” said Hearst CEO Steve Swartz. “She has expertly led the division over the past several months and we are confident in the future as Debi and her team continue to build on the legacy our our great brands around the world.”
“This is an important moment in our culture and in our industry, and I am honored to lead our remarkable teams at this time of transformation,” Chiricella said.
Hearst Corp. had initially hoped to ride out the storm surrounding Young with an apology and a reprimand. The Times story detailed allegations that Young made suggestive comments in the workplace about sex toys, sent pornography to a senior editor and made demeaning remarks to a junior employee.
Sources said higher-ups had long known that Young had a problem with inappropriate comments, but felt it did not rise to the level of sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul now in prison; or Les Moonves, who was forced out at CBS after numerous allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.
But Young’s initial clumsy remarks after the story broke triggered an internal uproar by many staffers, especially among women. Within 24 hours, the decision was reached that he should resign.
Young had already been under fire because editorial workers were in the midst of organizing with the Writers Guild of America East. They voted to do so in July, marking the first time that the publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, had even been unionized.
Many blamed Young’s poor handling of controversial story commissioned by Esquire and ultimately killed by Young and chief content officer Kate Lewis, for fueling the discontent. Others felt that Young, who had worked on the floundering Say Media before he landed at Hearst, was favoring digital-side appointments at Hearst.
The argument from the print veterans was that print still pulled in the lion’s share of the revenue and while digital was growing, it was able to cash in on the good name of the brands.
The twin frustrations combined to ultimately make the union drive successful. Four hundred workers are now represented by the WGAE although management and the union have yet to hammer out a contract.
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