Inside Noah Shachtman’s Loud Reimagining of “Rolling Stone”


Noah Shachtman was in Vermont last year, “just thinking about quitting,” when Gus Wener rang with an opportunity. “I was exhausted after more than seven years of running the insane asylum – I mean in the best possible way – it’s the Daily Beast,” he told me. But the chance to take the reins of rolling stone quickly recharged it. “I couldn’t sleep that night,” he recalls. “I was so excited.”

Such excitement was palpable on a recent visit to rolling stoneat the Manhattan headquarters, as Shachtman invited me to stay while he met the rising pop star Tai Verdes, who appeared on the magazine’s Twitch show. He practically jumped into the room and announced in one breath, “I’m-Noah-Shachtman-I-am-the-editor-of-Rolling stone.“Verdes thanked Shachtman for being a fan as the editor shared his favorite songs and assured Verdes he’s not like that with all the Twitch guests.

Shachtman, an extremely online Brooklyn dad who throws an F-bomb and played CBGB before settling on National Defense beat, has breathed new life into rolling stone since taking over as editor a year ago. He boosted the publication’s online metabolism in a way reminiscent of how he ran the Daily Beast, a site known for punching above its weight with inside scoops on politics, media and pop culture. But the frenetic pace is also a boost for the staff of a former print magazine whose web presence seemed, until recently, like an afterthought. His uncompromising style in the newsroom and swagger on social media have angered some staffers, sparking debate over whether Shachtman’s obsession with scoops and tabloid instincts is best suited for the iconic magazine. of music and culture – or, maybe, that’s just what it needs to stay relevant in the digital age.

As he enters his second year atop the masthead, Shachtman, 51, has made it clear he won’t let go of the throttle. “Are we trying to reach as many audiences as possible? Fuck yes,” he said. “Are we going to try and get into the biggest stories of the day across the board? Like, of course. Do I like to be disjointed? Of course, I like to be scrappy. Do I think that’s a virtue? I do. I think it’s a virtue. It’s not, you know, City & Country,” he said. “It’s fucking rolling stone here, and scrappy and edgy is part of the DNA.

You could see his fingerprints immediately, in the exclusive and edgy titles, and if for some reason you couldn’t tell there was a new sheriff in town, he would drop by the next year. narrative you then on Twitter, welcoming people to the “new rolling stone” and swear to call out “bad actors,” including former cover stars like Eric Clapton, who has been criticized for being a vaccine skeptic and donating money to a like-minded music group. “New rolling stone going to take on monsters, even — especially — if it means taking on monsters the magazine has helped raise,” Shachtman tweeted last November to promote an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Marilyn Manson, a project tells me that staff members started before the new editor arrived – in other words, the old Rolling stone. (Manson has denied the allegations.) The magazine sparked controversy last spring for an article exploring the “final days” of late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins with an interviewee, the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer. Chad Smith, calling the play “sensationalized and misleading”.

Shachtman can be almost cartoonishly aggressive about journalism. “He once compared the Daily Beast to SEAL Team 6,” a former staffer recalled. His focus on big swings might be limiting: Another former Daily Beast employee said Shachtman seemed more interested in music-related controversies than the music itself. “He always seemed to prefer scoops on artists who had done bad things, like stories of sexual assault,” they said, “rather than articles about their work.”

Shachtman, formerly a staff member of bill clintonfrom the 1992 presidential campaign, says he got into journalism to help pay the rent between gigs as a ska and reggae bassist. He tells a story – on a few podcasts and in our interview – about how, in the early 2000s, he felt he had to choose between music and journalism and chose the latter. (Music journalism, a bridge between the two, didn’t work for him: “You know when something hits you so hard, and is so important, and is so moving to you, that you almost can’t write to this topic?” he said.) Shachtman covered national security and technology, establishing himself among the first journalists to do so primarily for an online audience. “How digital news worked and how to take a wonky topic and make it accessible to a wide audience – he really understood these things early on,” said a reporter who worked with him on the award-winning show Danger Room. Wired Shachtman blog founded in 2007.

Noah Shachtman, left, and Rolling Stone CEO Gus Wenner in July 2021 in Brooklyn. By GUERIN BLASK/The New York Times/Redux.

His intensity in the newsroom was already apparent. “Sometimes it was a little too much for me. But I understand where it’s coming from,” the Danger Room reporter said. “The one thing that will absolutely kill a reporter is not drawing attention or interest in his stories and that’s something Noah is definitely not guilty of. Even people who thought he was too demanding talked about the excitement he brought to the newsroom,” they said. “And you kind of get on with each other.” As Shachtman acknowledges, “I know I’m a different cat and I know I’m intense.”

Many people who have worked with Shachtman – I’ve spoken to more than a dozen – will tell you that he excels in the journalism part of the job, and more than a few will say that, despite his good intentions, he doesn’t failed as a manager. . “I think he could be, if he took it seriously, but I don’t even think he thinks of it as part of the job,” said a former Daily Beast staffer, among those who described him as sometimes immature and lacking. borders. “With some journalists he would call them buddy-buddy and then use that intimacy to berate you in very personal terms,” ​​another said. A third former Daily Beast staffer recalled how, when she told her exit interviewer that some editors could work on their communication skills with women (without naming names), the exit interviewer correctly guessed that she was talking about Shachtman. (Shachtman declined to comment on the memories of this former staffer.)


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