Newell Turner (BA 82) has worn many hats throughout his publishing career, but a few things have remained constant – a passion for magazines, creativity and all things beautiful.
Hearst Design Group recently named Turner editor-in-chief, a newly-created position in which Turner will oversee Hearst’s three shelter publications: Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Veranda. Having served as style director for House Beautiful since 2006, and editor-in-chief since 2010, Turner feels the transition to his new position will be an opportunity to achieve greatness.
“Now I have the fun and excitement of working with three different magazines that are essentially three in one,” Turner said. “They’re all very distinct but are all part of the Hearst Design Group. I’m excited to help build these magazine brands across a variety of different platforms.”
Turner’s career in publishing began at Ole Miss during journalism week while enrolled in a newly created magazine graduate program.
Dr. Samir Husni, journalism professor and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss, introduced Turner to Dorothy Kalins, editor of Metropolitan Home magazine.
“I learned there was an upcoming opening for editorial assistant at Metropolitan Home, which is sort of the bottom rung of the magazine staff,” he said. “She [Kalins] believed in me and said I should fly to New York for an interview.”
One plane ride later, Turner quickly moved to New York to assume his new position with Metropolitan Home, where he worked on and off for the next 12 years.
Prior to joining Hearst Magazines in 2006, Turner was the founding editor-in-chief of Cottages & Gardens Publications, with magazines in the Hamptons, Palm Beach and Connecticut.
Perhaps most exciting for Turner is the newly announced structure of Hearst Design Group, which allows for a core group of editors for Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Veranda, while simultaneously drawing from a shared group of resources at Hearst Magazines.
“It’s going to prove that magazine publishing is far from dead,” said Turner. “As we’ve been saying in our press releases, it’s more nimble and modern than ever.”
Turner’s passion for magazines goes back to his days as a teenager in Belzoni, Miss., perusing the local drugstore’s magazine selection.
“I had a subscription to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine when I was 13 or 14 years old,” recalled Turner. “My parents probably thought what is this magazine coming in the mail with David Bowie on the cover? What is that about?”
Turner has always loved the entire magazine experience and the way a magazine can bring so much information to the reader in both a user-friendly and intimate way.
“It’s not aggressive like TV or even digital now,” said Turner. “I find it a very wonderful experience and wonderful interaction.”
With the onslaught of digital media, iPad magazine subscriptions and QR codes, Turner quickly realized the impact of digital media on the publishing industry but views new digital options as more of an asset instead of an obstacle.
“I think digital is obviously a part of our lives and will become more and more a part of our lives but there’s something very powerful, tactile and pleasing about the magazine experience. I don’t think that will go away, rather we’re going to have more and more ways that technology can be integrated into that,” said Turner.
Having grown up around beautiful homes, Turner was drawn to beautiful things at an early age and has developed an intriguing philosophy on the true impact of said things in peoples’ lives.
“Home design magazines aren’t just decorating magazines, they’re lifestyle magazines,” said Turner. “All people should have beautiful things in their lives, and I truly believe that those beautiful things lead to better lives and actually elevate people.”
Another fundamental component at House Beautiful is the importance of color and the role it plays not only in peoples’ moods, but also in their everyday lives.
“The more we talk about color and write about color the more people realize that something as simple as choosing one color over another can affect how you feel,” says Turner. “We’re very Oprah in that way in how we talk about color. I always say that what sex is to Cosmo, color is to House Beautiful.”
In addition to reinvigorating House Beautiful, Turner has managed to bring a sampling of Ole Miss to New York. During the summer of 2012, two Ole Miss interns, Virginia England (cousin) and Miriam Taylor joined Turner in his New York office.
“I think some of my editors thought, ok these girls had better be good,” recalled Turner. “After the first week I can honestly tell you that everyone was talking about how amazing the interns were, and I said well what did you expect, they’re from Ole Miss?”
Turner truly enjoys the Big Apple and everything the city has to offer, but fondly recalls his days at Ole Miss, where he served as president of Kappa Alpha order.
“There was something really special about that time that I can still remember,” Turner said. “I can still feel and smell the air…the Grove, the beginning of fall and football season and just that excitement. The campus is a very special place.”
Turner’s family members are overwhelmingly active Ole Miss alumni, students, fans and supporters. But Turner’s grandfather, Thomas N. Turner, perhaps epitomizes Ole Miss above the rest.
He built an addition to his home in the late ’60s to include an entertainment room, aptly named the “Rebel Room.”
“It was totally decked out in Ole Miss red and blue and memorabilia he had collected over the years,” said Turner. “There was a Colonel Rebel inlaid into the floor…they even had a Rebel bathroom.”
While Turner feels like a true New Yorker after having lived there for approximately 30 years, he is still a Mississippian by birth.
“I don’t always see myself being here full-time forever, it’s not an easy city,” said Turner. “But as long as I’m working I’m going to be here, because this is the heart of my industry. And I love it here too.”