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On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry

edited by Victor S. NavaskyEvan Cornog

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-231-13136-0
Publisher: Columbia Univ.

A collection of smart essays and lectures by accomplished professionals in the magazine world.

Navasky (A Matter of Opinion, 2005, etc.) is the former editor of the Nation and now a professor of magazine journalism at Columbia University. Cornog (The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. Bush, 2004, etc.) is the former publisher of the magazine Columbia Journalism Review and now dean of the school of communication at Hofstra University. Their insightful introduction explains that they have compiled something other than a how-to book. Perhaps it is best to consider it a how-to-think-about-it book. Ruth Reichl, who as editor made Gourmet magazine a must-read for foodies, compares the way magazines operated before the advent of the Internet with the new digital-inspired reality. Other high-profile editors sharing their philosophies include Roberta Myers (Elle), Tina Brown (Talk, the New Yorker, Newsweek) and the late Michael Kelly (the Atlantic and the National Journal). Peter Canby, fact-checker at the New Yorker, and Barbara Walraff, copy editor at the Atlantic, explain why the rush of online magazine publishers should never lead print periodicals to lower standards concerning facts, grammar, spelling and the like. Without rigorous standards, confusion reigns and quality is compromised. John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's, and Felix Dennis, publisher of Maxim and others, offer divergent views on how those controlling the budget should think about the editorial content as a way to attract and retain readers. Robert Gottlieb, former New Yorker and Simon & Schuster editor, discusses why, at a book publisher, the job of the editor is to make authors happy, but at a magazine the writer's happiness is secondary to the editor's vision of what readers will consume.

A useful, even timely collection, even though some of the pieces are 10 years old.