Class of 1947
Robert Stein, whose career as a magazine editor and as an educator began midway through the last century, had no difficulty making the transition from an analog world to a digital one. Back in the glory days of print media, he was editor-in-chief of two large-circulation national magazines, Redbook and McCall’s; he was a book publisher at Saturday Review Press when books were made of ink and paper instead of bits and bytes; and he was a media critic for New York magazine when journalism was primarily disseminated by print and broadcast organizations. When technologies began to change, Stein became a project director for cable and satellite television for the McCall Corp. And in 2006, almost 60 years after he graduated from City College and at the age of 82, he became an active blogger, posting.regularly on the economy, politics, foreign affairs and health care right up until his death eight years later.
“Somehow, I guess I have to thank George Bush for making a blogger out of me,” he told The Democratic Daily, an online publication, in 2007. “I was very opposed to the war in Iraq before it started. It just didn’t seem enough to write an occasional letter to the editor. I wanted to express what I was feeling.”
Stein, a native New Yorker who was born on March 4, 1924, attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and served at a bomber base during World War II before entering City College. He taught magazine publishing at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, magazine editing at New York University, and magazine writing at the College. He was chairman of the American Society of Magazine Editors, and for more than a decade, he was a judge at that organization’s National Magazine Awards.
As the editor of Redbook (1955 to 1965) and McCall’s (1965 to 1967 and again from 1972 to 1985), he elevated the quality of both publications, introducing columns by a diverse group of contributors. They included Margaret Mead, Benjamin Spock, Clare Booth Luce, Julia Child, Pauline Kael, Coco Chanel and Betty Friedan. He brought in Gloria Steinem as a contributing editor and Truman Capote as a writer. He also brought to his pages serious reporting of political, cultural and scientific issues, including the earliest questioning of mastectomy as the only treatment for breast cancer and co-sponsorship of the first medical research of the long-term effects of birth-control pills. During the administration of John F. Kennedy, Stein organized and led a joint interview with the president by editors of seven women's magazines on the dangers of nuclear weapons.
He was cited by the American Society of Authors and Journalists as “the editor who has done the most to advance magazines as a medium of democratic communication.” He was a board member of the McCall Corp., the Magazine Publishers Association and Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, and was a member of the Rockefeller Commission on Race and the Media.
|Robert Stein (top row, far left), with President
Kennedy at a White House conference arranged by Stein in 1963.
In addition to turning out numerous articles and reviews for a range of newspapers and magazines — including New York magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Saturday Review, Reader's Digest, Newsday, The Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Daily News Sunday Magazine and the Taconic Newspapers of upstate New York — Stein was the author of “Media Power: Who's Shaping Your Picture of the World?” (1972). In 1989, he was a co-author of “Getting Your Share: A Woman's Guide to Successful Divorce Strategies.” His collaborator was Lois Brenner, his wife.
Explaining why he began his blog at 82, he said it wasn’t “to extol geezer wisdom,” but suggested that in a time of 24/7 news flashes, perspective can be helpful. “The Web,” he wrote, “is a wide space for spreading news, but it can also be a deep well of collective memory to help us understand today’s world. In olden days, tribes kept village elders around to remind them with which foot to begin the ritual dance. Start the music.”
Stein died on July 9, 2014, from complications related to multiple myeloma cancer. He was 90.