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It's been a rough few weeks for Vogue editor Anna Wintour. There were the rumors that Condé Nast chief Si Newhouse was thinking of replacing her with Carine Roitfeld, the editor of French Vogue. Then there was more concrete evidence of Vogue's fading relevance: The number of ad pages in the magazine tumbled by nearly 10 percent in 2008, a decline more substantial than most of Vogue's competitors. Yesterday, the Times' Cathy Horyn, one of the few fashion writers daring enough to take on the industry's most powerful figure, laid out some of the magazine's problems with a piece entitled "What's Wrong with Vogue?"

Among Horyn's complaints: That Vogue "has become stale and predictable," which has happened "in spite of some of the best editors, writers and photographers in the business." She argues the magazine has difficulty connecting with younger readers and focuses way too much on the social scene: "There are too many stories about socialites—or, at any rate, too few such stories that sufficiently demonstrate why we should care about these creatures." And she observes that the mag has had trouble adjusting to the recession. "It's embarrassing to see how Vogue deals with the recession. For the December issue, it sent a writer off to discover the 'charms' of Wal-Mart and Target. A similar obtuseness permeates a fashion spread in the January issue, where a model and a child are portrayed on a weekend outing with a Superman figure. Is a '50s suburban frock emblematic of the mortgage meltdown?"

Given the general consensus in the fashion industry that saying anything ill of Wintour results in instant career death, it's not surprising that Horyn has a bit of trouble mustering support for her opinions from others. One person who is willing to say he doesn't read Vogue anymore? That would be Magnus Berger, who Horyn describes as "an editor in his 30s," but who also happens to be on of the very few people who might actually benefit from Roitfeld taking over for Anna: He's Julia Restoin-Roitfeld's longtime boyfriend.

What’s Wrong With Vogue? [NYT]