This is my last issue as the managing editor of Fortune. Alan Murray will be the new editor. I congratulate him and wish him well.
My departure has made me sentimental: I’ve been listening to the Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More” and some neoclassical Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms. (Who wouldn’t?) But mostly, leaving has made me think about Fortune over the years, my amazing colleagues, and the remarkable work they have done.
I have been editor since October 2006, for 162 issues including this one, but I’ve been at Fortune much longer than that, starting as an intern in December 1984. Over that 29 1/2 years I’ve worked on thousands of articles—including all those in my daily blog, Streetlife, which I fired up in 1997. I’ve helped cover three recessions (including the recent Great Recession), the roaring ’80s, the roaring ’90s, a number of stock market dramas, 9/11, and seven presidential elections. Then there are the people we’ve written about along the way: the raiders of the 1980s, the super-CEO era of Jack Welch and Roberto Goizueta. There’s the great Warren Buffett, and indelible people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer, and on and on. Besides my colleagues and bosses at Fortune and Time Inc., there were hundreds of incredible characters and great talents. There’s so much, looking back, I’m just beginning to sort it all out at this chapter-ending moment in my life.
What will I take away? What did I learn? Here are a few things that have occurred to me already:
- That you have to balance the idea that nothing really changes with the notion that everything is changing fast—especially the ever-evolving Internet of everything, the biggest change-agent to hit the global economy in our lifetimes. While Facebook, Spotify, Uber, Yelp, and the like—which many of us use multiple times every week, if not every day—are completely new, really cool, and producing all kinds of au courant lessons and rules, it doesn’t give anyone a license to engage in illegal, conflicted, or amoral behavior “in the name of the revolution.” If they do, journalists should call them out on it.
- That with so much information available so easily to so many, hard-nosed reporting and critical thinking become more important than ever.
- That Watson, HAL, and all the artificial intelligence in the world will never replicate the most important human decision-making, or if the computers ever do, we will have already been taken over by machines, à la some sort of Will Smith movie. (By the way, I’ve always loved the phrase “artificial intelligence.” I know a few people… Oh, never mind!)
- That the only thing that makes any organization differentiated and thereby sustainable is a supertalented group of people—which ultimately can be held together only by culture. And I’ve come to realize that that’s what Fortune has: a passionate, creative, collaborative, high-bar culture that nurtures one of the most singular groups of journalists on the planet. And the beneficiary of all this has been you, O reader. Our culture created the environment that allowed us to deliver all that remarkable Fortune storytelling and content to you. I’m optimistic that the digital revolution won’t change any
of that. In fact, with all the clutter out there, it only makes what Fortune stands for more important.
I’m sure more things will occur to me at some point, but that’s it for now. Thanks to everyone who worked at Fortune during my tenure, and thanks to all of you who have read our work.
¡Buena suerte, amigos!
This story is from the September 1, 2014 issue of Fortune.