THIS PAGE IS NORMALLY reserved by our publisher to tell you about some of the unusual individuals who help make this magazine. But this week I am borrowing her space to tell you about the man who created this magazine. He is Richard B. Stolley, 64, the first managing editor of PEOPLE and the individual most responsible for the success of the magazine you arc holding in your hands. Dick edited PEOPLE from its first issue in March 1974 until he moved on to become managing editor of LIFE in 1982. In that time he edited 415 issues of PEOPLE and all but singlehandedly invented the genre of personality journalism. Dick later returned to our masthead as Time Inc.’s editorial director, a lofty post from which he has continued to watch over the boisterous adolescent that he and his colleagues nursed out of childhood.
This month Dick and his equally distinguished colleague Gil Rogin, the company’s corporate editor, are retiring after nearly four decades of writing, editing and nurturing magazines at Time Inc. While they each astonished us with their talents and energies, we feel a special kinship with the man who stamped his personality on Vol. 1, No. 1 and whose passion for fairness, accuracy and hard work endures in every issue of PEOPLE.
From the outset, Stolley was determined to make the magazine as lively as its subject, but also responsible and thoroughly believable. “I knew we would be dealing with what in those early days was going to be pretty hairy stuff,” he says. “It was a new kind of intimate reporting, with information about prominent men and women in all fields that other magazines were not getting and probably would not print if they did. This kind of personal reporting has become so prevalent today that it’s hard to remember, or even believe, that it did not really exist before, at least not in the way we proposed to do it.”
Stolley gave PEOPLE a comfortable design—”a look that said quietly, ‘These are the facts, and we’re not making any judgments about them,’ ” he says. “Every redesign since then has helped reinforce PEOPLE’S reputation for accuracy, sympathy and straightforward reporting.”
That first issue featured a “Lookout” on a 24-year-old rock singer named Bruce Springsteen, and before long the little upstart magazine began to creep its way into the hearts of the American people. “We had some things going for us,” Stolley says. “One was our spirit. It never occurred to us that we would not succeed. Another thing that helped was the disaster that was gripping the country, Watergate. It made Americans acutely sensitive to the news, and we plunged in. And before the first year was over, we had a new and accessible First Family in the White House.”
Soon even Stolley’s toughest audience—his often skeptical colleagues at the more traditional Time Inc. magazines—became converts, along with millions of readers. As we approach our 20th-birthday celebration next year, Dick will be helping us further define PEOPLE’S role in American life. “Someone once described PEOPLE as having changed the soul of American journalism. he said recently. “I’m not so sure about soul, but I am about structure, emphasis, content. PEOPLE made the responsible but unrelenting study of personality and behavior a legitimate and even essential part of American journalism. I say that with full knowledge of how some of our competitors have debased the craft we developed and perfected. We are not reponsible for what our success has encouraged others to fail at. Week after week, PEOPLE has made the contribution to our society and our profession that serious journalists want to make—and that is what our company has always stood for.”
We agree. Thank you, Dick. And Godspeed.