Peter Kaplan, a legendary and beloved editor who turned the New York Observer into a highly influential chronicler of the city's elite, has died at 59.
The New York Times reported on Friday that the cause was cancer.
Kaplan was an editor at the Observer for 15 years. During his time there its distinctive salmon-colored pages gained a reputation as an authoritative source on the activities and the foibles of New York's notables. More importantly, the paper became a breeding ground for journalistic talent, and Kaplan pioneered a sharp, sardonic tone that would go on to influence the entire architecture of the media world.
As the New Republic put it in a 2012 profile:
“It’s hard to find a major publication right now, in print or online, that’s not in some way flavored by the old Observer...subtract Kaplan from the media landscape of the past 20 years and you lose The Awl, much of Gawker and a good bit of Politico, too.”
Kaplan's career was wide ranging. He left the Observer in 2009, and was most recently the editorial director of the Fairchild Fashion Group. Besides his brothers James and Robert, Kaplan is survived by his second wife Lisa Chase and their son, as well as three children from a previous marriage to Audrey Walker.
In the Observer's article on the passing of its former editor, the author recalled a tribute Kaplan wrote on the death of another iconic editor, Clay Felker. The remembrance Kaplan wrote was titled “Never Hold Your Best Stuff" and according to the Observer, "Mr. Kaplan never did."
Kaplan's death prompted an outpouring of remembrances from the journalism world:
I was only an intern at the New York Observer during the Kaplan years but the voice he created always stuck with me. http://t.co/RK8e9qL4io
— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) November 30, 2013
Kaplan made my career by giving me the best beat for an editor in the world: New York media at the New York Observer. He taught me news.
— Hillary Frey (@hilella) November 30, 2013
Deep gratitude is exactly right RT @carlstwitt: Thank you Peter Kaplan.
— Gabriel Snyder (@gabrielsnyder) November 30, 2013
When I stopped working for Kaplan I worried I was working without a net. Then I realized the problem was I wasn't getting up on the wire.
— Tom McGeveran (@tmcgev) November 30, 2013