Interview: Larry Hackett

Larry Hackett was promoted to managing editor of People earlier this year, where he has risen through the ranks since joining as a senior editor in 1998.

Larry Hackett was promoted to managing editor of People earlier this year, where he has risen through the ranks since joining as a senior editor in 1998.

Prior to People, he honed his skills for eight and a half years at the New York Daily News.

PRWeek: How has People changed during your time at the magazine?
Larry Hackett:
The biggest evolution is the new level of competition that's out there. We were a magazine that for many years was by itself. And it was a terrific magazine, but I think when any entity that doesn't have competition, a lot of your improvements are self-motivated. And there's nothing like external motivation to make changes that need to be made. So I think the magazine has become a lot more competitive; it's become faster, it's become newsier, it's become certainly brighter and better looking. And I think it's become more vital frankly.

PRWeek: Why is there such interest in celebrity news and gossip? 
Hackett:
I don't think there's a new fascination with celebrities. If you look back to the late '50s and '60s, and you see all of the magazines that were out there... there were seemingly dozens of them. And they covered this world like the Us and In Touches cover this world. So, it's very much back to the future in that way. But for many, many years, and for the '70s, '80s, and '90s, People was really the only game in town.

PRWeek: Where do you see this trend going?
Hackett:
I don't think it's a bubble that's going to burst. I don't think the interest in celebrity waxes and wanes that hugely. I think people are interested in what other people are doing. For many years, celebrity has been an easy place to learn about other personalities who aren't your friends, family, or neighbors. But they provide this notion that you know who they are. So they're sort of like your surrogate friends. I don't think that fascination will ever abate.

PRWeek: People prides itself on covering news stories and profiles of real Americans, in addition to the celebrity coverage. Which of those stories are you particularly proud of?
Hackett: The same week that we broke the news about Angelina Jolie being pregnant, we had eight pages on the miners who had died in West Virginia. We had individual profiles of all 12 miners, we had photographs of all 12 guys, and no one else had that. I was very, very proud of that.

PRWeek: You deal with celebrity publicists and traditional PR people. How does your interaction with them differ?
Hackett:
The celebrity publicists whom we know, we deal with all the time. If their client happens to be a prominent celebrity, there's a constant push and pull with them on a week-to-week basis, which affects the relationship. You don't want to upset them; they don't want to upset you. Whereas, if someone is calling from a story where it's a one-off kind of story, the relationship will not be as deep.

PRWeek: Do you have any advice for those PR pros who are not representing celebrities?
Hackett:
I think you have to look at your story and say, "Is this an extraordinary story?" Is it about an individual that's done an extraordinary thing, or is it a situation that is so unique that it's compelling? Most important for us, it has to hit some kind of emotional note. We do stories about societal trends, but we do it through the individual. So if it's about education or health or family, there has to be compelling individuals in the case.

PRWeek: Where do you see the future of the magazine?
Hackett:
My effort is to make the magazine vital and compelling... people really want to connect to those around them. And our job is to do that.

Name: Larry Hackett

Outlet: People

Title: Managing editor

Web site: www.people.com

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