Publisher's Letter

updated 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jim Seymore was starting to get ugly. For six weeks in 1986, he and his travel-weary band of four PEOPLE reporters and photographers had trekked across the Soviet Union, interviewing peasants and artists, miners and apparatchiks to bring to the magazine's readers a sense of a vast empire rocked by Gorbachev's earliest reforms. Throughout, the journalists had been bedeviled by bureaucracy and inefficiency—and it was getting to Seymore. Finally, in the Moscow railroad station, he lost it. "What do you mean, you only take dollars?" he roared at the official guide. "What's wrong with your money?"

For PEOPLE staffers, the anecdote has a familiar ring. Seymore, 47, the magazine's executive editor who this week departs to become managing editor of the newest of our company's publications, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, has high standards of service. "He is," says senior editor Susan Toepfer, "the toughest editor on the staff." Adds assistant managing editor Ross Drake: "He can blow up, but it's usually at large groups, not individuals."

Indeed, even for those who have felt the wrath of Seymore, there is the suspicion that beneath his curmudgeonly hide there beats a heart. This, after all, is the man who instituted Hawaiian-Shirt Day, an annual rite of summer for the editorial staff. "He is very funny," says Drake, "and he's courtly, from the South. He knows about the business of entertainment. And he's very astute when it comes to picking cover subjects."

Sniffing out successful covers has been one of Seymore's major contributions since he joined PEOPLE 13 years ago as an assistant editor on the TV beat. Born in Baton Rouge, La., the son of a commercial pilot and a legal secretary, Seymore graduated from Princeton in 1966 and got his first job as a reporter for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. Before being named PEOPLE'S executive editor in 1988, he edited both the show business and the news sections—and in 1984 married former PEOPLE photo researcher Joyce Campbell. They live in New Canaan, Conn., with Hadley, their 4-year-old daughter. His 16-year-old daughter, Chloë, is a student at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass.

"Jim Seymore gave his heart to PEOPLE most of 14 years, with no time off for brilliant, warm or irascible behavior," says managing editor Landon Jones. "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY is gaining one of the most experienced editorial hands in magazine journalism." Seymore himself admits to mixed emotions. "I'm sad to be leaving the place where I spent most of my working life," he says, "but ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY is an exciting opportunity."

On the Russian trip—which produced an entire special issue—Seymore picked up a staff nickname: Nachal'nik, Russian for "big chief." Good luck, Nachal'nik. It's been a helluva sleigh ride.

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