Time for a shift at mag

New managing editor to be announced in coming days

NEW YORK — Time Magazine managing editor Jim Kelly is leaving the publication to take a job within Time Inc., opening up a hole at the top of the country’s biggest weekly.

Time already has someone in its sights and will announce an appointment in the next few days.

Time’s managing editor has the lead day-to-day edit role at the pub, and the job is one of the most prestigious in magazine publishing.

Kelly moves into the newly created post of Time Inc. managing editor, overseeing standards at Time Inc.’s many publications as well as developing policy for its slate of mags.

By Tuesday afternoon in Gotham, replacement names already were flying: insiders like co-exec editor Priscilla Painton; Steve Koepp, Kelly’s deputy and architect of Time.com; outsiders like Jon Meacham, Kelly’s Newsweek counterpart; and name-brand choices like Tina Brown and Adam Moss, the former New York Times Magazine editor who has recently re-engineered New York magazine.

Koepp would fit with company’s desire to amp up online operations in the face of intensifying competish from blogs and newspaper Web sites. (Koepp, incidentally, has a Hollywood connection — he co-wrote with his brother David the screenplay for the early-’90s Ron Howard pic “The Paper.”)

But tapping someone with a track record of reinvention like Moss or Brown would be the more dramatic move.

Another candidate, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, is seen as a wildcard. Weisberg has spent much of his career at Slate, first as a writer and now as its editor-in-chief, and may be the person who best represents the idea of melding online buzz with a serious news sensibility.

Rumors that Kelly would be removed had been circulating for weeks. At a celeb-heavy event the mag threw last week for its Time 100 issue, tongues were wagging about a possible departure.

But Time Inc. reps continued to deny that a removal was imminent.

Time Inc. has been one of the more embattled of Time Warner’s largely successful divisions, and Time magazine hasn’t been immune to the road bumps in circulation and ad pages.

Still, the choice comes at a curious juncture. So far this year, Time magazine is up nearly 5% in ad pages over the same period in a dismal 2005. And the title just received the National Magazine Award for general excellence, its first such win since the mid-’80s.

Kelly took over as Time topper nearly six years ago as celebrity magazines were beginning to take off. As the head of the mag world’s most venerable–but also most widely circulated–weekly, he has been forced to tiptoe on the line between shifting consumer tastes and the magazine’s journalistic tradition.

The news focus Kelly had honed as a writer (he has worked for the paper in some capacity for nearly 30 years) was leavened with its share of service and celeb-oriented pieces.

Mag also was perceived as late to the online game, though it has hired bloggers like Andrew Sullivan to beef up its presence among younger and nonprint readers.

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