Garrett Graff Gets Top Job at Washingtonian
Huge shakeup at the Washingtonian: After 40 years at the monthly magazine, top editor Jack Limpert is stepping down, to be replaced by Garrett Graff, the hotshot 28-year-old executive editor who joined the staff four years ago.
Graff will start his new job Sept. 1, becoming just the third editor-in-chief in the magazine's 44-year history. Limpert, 75, will remain as editor-at-large, according to a memo to the staff Wednesday morning.
"This is a great perch at a great publication," Graff told us. "This is the golden age of Washington, the most exciting time in the city's history. It's exciting to be a part of that."
Graff began at Washingtonian in 2005 as editor of Capital Comment, the gossipy front section of local personalities and news. In April of this year, he was named executive editor -- a clear signal he was being groomed to take over Limpert's job.
In Limpert's heyday in the '80s, the magazine won national awards and was a must-read for power brokers. "One of things about Jack that was so brilliant is that he really understood how Washington worked and knew all the players," said a former staffer. But the magazine fell into a rut of annual "Best" lists (lawyers, doctors, weekends, restaurants). Sources at the magazine say Limpert's days were numbered after publisher Phil Merrill died in 2006, and his daughter, Cathy Merrill Williams, took over the operation.
"Jack and I were looking for someone to fill Jack's shoes -- and they are big shoes," said Williams, who called Graff "smart, practical and well respected." She said she wasn't concerned about Graff's relatively short tenure in the nation's capital. "We run as a team. Jack is just moving down the hall, so there's a lot of experience at our magazine -- including me, who was born in the District."
Washingtonian is Graff's first magazine gig, although he grew up on journalism -- his father was a bureau chief for the Associated Press in Vermont. After graduating with a history degree from Harvard (where he worked on the Harvard Crimson), he joined Howard Dean's presidential campaign and blogged on FishbowlDC before being tapped by the magazine to write and to energize the Web site.
"I come at this position with a variety of different backgrounds," Graff said. "I've worked on campaigns, been a blogger, I'm working on my second book -- so I bring a lot of different views and hats to being a magazine editor. One of the things that is really clear right now in journalism is that we all need fresh perspectives."
He said he had no intention of "meddling with the fundamental aspects of the magazine" but planned to better emphasize what it can do: This month's cover feature, for example, is a lengthy, gripping account of how firefighters rescued triplets from a house fire. He's inheriting a staff hit by layoffs and declining advertising revenue -- but also a publisher who's not worried about the future: "The magazine is doing very well," she said.
Limpert could not be reached for comment -- he was playing a midweek round of charity golf for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.
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