Billings Bound  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   March 1998

Billings Bound   

New Republic Publisher Joan Stapleton marries the mayor of Billings, Montana.

By Debra Puchalla
Debra Puchalla is AJR's associate editor and deputy editor of Martha Stewart Living.      


From first lady of the New Republic to first lady of Billings.

Following her February wedding to the Montana city's mayor, Joan Stapleton , 44, is stepping westward from her slot as the New Republic's publisher to become the wonky weekly's national advertising director.

But don't expect Stapleton, who started off in TNR's advertising department nearly two decades ago, to be "just" the woman behind Mayor Charles "Chuck" Tooley . Based in Billings, Stapleton plans to keep up with the Beltway buzz as she returns to her advertising roots and covers the bulk of the magazine's turf west of Chicago, in hot spots from Silicon Valley to Denver and Seattle.

"Having witnessed the creation of the magazine on a weekly basis gives me a better perspective on it that helps me to articulate what it's all about," says the ever-smiling Stapleton, a tough-as-nails bottom-liner by day and sometimes jazz singer by night.

As national ad director, Stapleton hopes to capitalize on the relationship between TNR and its readers, one she says is ideal for advertisers in search of a captivated audience. "Reading the magazine is like having a conversation with a favorite professor or intellectual," she says.

"Because the relationship between readers and the magazine is as personal as it is, it affords advertisers the opportunity to tap into that intimacy and communicate very directly with an extremely elusive kind of reader," she says.

Her tenure at TNR was speckled by controversy none of her own doing as mercurial owner Martin Peretz bumped heads with editors from Hendrik Hertzberg to Michael Kinsley and from Andrew Sullivan to Michael Kelly . Still, Stapleton has nothing but praise for Peretz. "He's an original," she says. "The sort of loyalty and respect he engenders among people is something that ought to be recognized."

The respect and admiration are mutual: Peretz, it seems, has a soft spot. "I've rarely met someone who is at once extremely smart and extremely sweet as she is," says Peretz. "She helped the magazine mature so that it was no longer a marginal publication but in the mainstream."

Stapleton's successor, Will Lippincott , 29, joins TNR from Tina Brown 's New Yorker , where he was the book publishing director in the advertising sales department. Lippincott, says Peretz, will build upon Stapleton's work and she will be as active in the magazine as ever.

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