Inside Bonnie Fuller’s $4.5 million job

bonnieInside Bonnie Fuller’s $4.5 million job: Bonnie Fuller gets the WSJ page one treatment today (subscription required). As with most Wall Street Journal page 1 profiles, the formulaic article begins with some “slice of life,” in this case a staff meeting regarding what adjective to use on the cover of Star Magazine.

Then, there is the obligatory recognition of the subject’s prowess:

By honing a formula that perfectly suits a changing magazine readership, Ms. Fuller has become one of the most successful editors of her generation. The 47-year-old editor packages information in bite-size chunks that don’t tax readers. She makes covers simple, eye-catching, and heavy on sex and celebrities.

In the race for short-attention-span readers overloaded with TV and the Web, publishers have clamored for Ms. Fuller’s services. She has worked for six magazine companies in 14 years. At each, she pumped up magazines that owners felt weren’t living up to their potential — including Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Us Weekly — bolstering circulations and often replacing staid formats with paparazzi photos, bubbly graphics and pink headlines.

With that “praise” out of the way, the writer can move onto what the reader really wants: the inside poop displaying how a person so successful must be flawed:

Working mostly on instinct, she doesn’t use a computer to edit, but scribbles notes on paper or directs others to make changes. At Us, reporters say they delayed telling Ms. Fuller about stories, believing she would only change her mind later in the week. One senior editor lined his office with stories that were commissioned, then killed. Assistants tired of her food requests: Ms. Fuller repeatedly asked one to fetch her a milk-chocolate Mounds bar, according to two witnesses. There’s no such thing.

“Bonnie can’t delegate. She’s computer illiterate. She doesn’t know what a budget is,” says Kent Brownridge, Wenner’s senior vice president. When the company was considering hiring Ms. Fuller in early 2002, it polled other executives for their opinions, he says. “The word was, ‘yeah, she’s good, but…’ ” says Mr. Brownridge.

“I don’t report to my critics,” responds Ms. Fuller. “I report to my bosses and they want to sell more magazines.”

The rest of the article, a few thousand words of biography, continues yin-yanging, “She’s great, she’s difficult, she’s great, she’s difficult, etc., etc…..”