Spin magazine fired its two top editors Tuesday and replaced them with a former editor of its sister publication, Vibe, in a high-level shakeup that is said to have been motivated by poor financial performance and a change in the magazine's overall direction.
Editor-In-Chief Michael Hirschorn and Executive Editor Craig Marks were ousted, with former Vibe editor Alan Light tapped as Hirschorn's successor.
Both editors have been involved in controversies with top-level artists in the past year. Marks recently filed suit against shock-rocker Marilyn Manson after the artist allegedly attacked him backstage at a show last November. Hirschorn apologized to Hole leader Courtney Love after publishing a potentially inflammatory cover of her last fall.
Hirschorn said he was not given any warning by Spin's parent company, Miller Publishing, that he would be let go. He also said his dismissal was tied to the financial performance of the company, rather than to editorial decisions or the lawsuit.
"They felt the financial performance of the company was not sufficiently strong," said Hirschorn, 34, the day after his 18-month tenure with Spin ended. "I know the management of the company never quite cottoned onto what we were doing with the magazine. ...We were trying to do something fresh and different, not a
cliched run-of-the-mill East Coast culture magazine. Perhaps they were facing a severe budget target they had to hit."
In a story published Wednesday, the New York Post cited Publishers Information Bureau when they reported that revenues at the magazine were up 11 percent to $26 million. Hirschorn, meanwhile, claimed that circulation was up to 535,000, according to the report.
Spin publicist Jason Roth said the firings were announced Tuesday and that there was a palpable sadness in the office. "They were both liked and respected by the editorial staff and the whole staff. There was a tangible sadness around the office."
Roth said that Spin had no statement on the firings, other than to confirm they had taken place. Calls to the Miller Publishing company regarding the shakeup were not returned by press time.
Light, who served as editor-in-chief at Vibe for three and a half years, said the position of editor-in-chief at Spin was offered to him late last week and that he accepted over the weekend. Having written a cover story for Spin in recent months, Light had worked directly with Marks.
"Any transition like this is complicated and not altogether pleasant. In a lot of ways it's easier because I know and have worked with everybody at Spin, but it makes the bad part harder," said Light, 32. "There's nothing anonymous about it. People I know are going through the hard part."
Former executive editor Marks, 37, said his dismissal after seven and a half years with the magazine was completely unexpected.
"They decided to make a clean sweep at the top," Marks said. "It's a sad day. It's a magazine I've enjoyed working for. I put a lot of heart and soul into it and I think we made it into a pretty damn good magazine. There's a lot of writers and editors I care a lot about and wish luck to. I think we did a good job."
Over the past several months, Marks has been the subject of news reports regarding an alleged incident involving the editor and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. On Jan. 4, Marks filed a multimillion-dollar personal injury lawsuit against Manson, the rocker's record label and his bodyguards. The suit claims that on Nov. 23 the singer threatened Marks and that his security personnel choked the editor and pushed him against the wall backstage at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom.
Both Marks and Hirschorn indicated they did not believe their dismissals were connected with the lawsuit.
In addition to the financial reasons given for his removal, Hirschorn speculated that his idiosyncratic approach at the helm of the magazine did not fit well with the current climate in music journalism, which he termed "very generic."
Spin came under fire for an October cover story on post-grunge rockers Hole, which featured a headline that read, "She's been called sell-out, bitch, killer. But will Courtney Love have the last laugh?"
Hirschorn apologized for the headline in an editor's note included in the November issue of the magazine. "Where we came up short," Hirschorn stated in the letter, "was failing to appreciate the extraordinary difficulty of her position: She not only lost a husband, the father of her child, to suicide, but was now forced to endure a seemingly endless barrage of insinuations that she was in some way to blame."
The same editor's note apologized for a fashion spread that ran in the September issue which featured a model hanging by the neck from a leather belt in a position Hirschorn said parodied auto-erotic asphyxiation, a form of sex play.
Hirschorn said Wednesday that he did not believe the Hole cover story and the subsequent furor surrounding it had anything to do with his dismissal.
As Light prepares to assume his post, the new editor-in-chief said he didn't see the magazine changing drastically in the coming months.
"Well, I think contrary to some rumors and the New York Post report [Wednesday] I don't see this as a repositioning or a radical shift in the direction of Spin," Light said.
"A lot of good things Michael did make the magazine read smarter and better, and I want to harness that into a more inviting package," he added. "My first thing is that I think Spin needs to be, month in and month out, more of a music magazine. That's where my heart is."
Neither Hirschorn or Marks had immediate plans for new employment.