Jann Wenner was writing and editing stories on people like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin back in 1967 when he co-founded Rolling Stone, which he would turn into one of the biggest publications ever. Now, it’s more likely to be pieces on Taylor Swift that Wenner oversees, but even though the times have changed, Wenner’s influence has not.
As publisher, Wenner retains oversight of Rolling Stone, as well as Men’s Journal and Us Weekly, two other magazines that constitute Wenner Media. Wenner’s progressive bent is seen in 2014 stories like “In Defense of Obama,” “Sexual Assault on Campus,” “How the Wingnuts Took Over Texas,” and “Pope Frances: The Times They Are A-Changin.’” Out singer Sam Smith won coveted coverage this year in Rolling Stone, while Neil Patrick Harris snagged the cover, naked except for a precariously placed top hat.
Even though Wenner’s dramatic life — including divorce, fatherhood, and complicated working relationships with legends like Hunter S. Thompson and fellow Primetimer Annie Liebovitz — could be made into a miniseries, he manages to hold onto his privacy, much like his contemporary, Anna Wintour. Living quietly with his fashion director partner Matt Nye and their children, Wenner keeps the focus on his work and charities, including acting as chairman for the nonprofit Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. We may get a closer look at how this iconoclast ticks now that a biography is in the works on the journalist, set to be published in 2017, the same year Rolling Stone turns 50. We might not still be talking about Taylor Swift then, but Wenner will still be a subject worth exploring.