kottke.org posts about The New Yorker
Excerpted from a book called The Art of Making Magazines, a piece on how fact-checking works at the New Yorker.
So that was the old New Yorker. The biggest difference between David Remnick's New Yorker today and the Shawn New Yorker is timeliness. During the Shawn years, book reviews ran months, even years out of sync with publication dates. Writers wrote about major issues without any concern for news pegs or what was going on in the outside world. That was the way people thought, and it was really the way the whole editorial staff was tuned.
All this changed when Tina Brown arrived. Whereas before, editorial schedules were predictable for weeks or a month in advance, under Tina we began getting 8,000-, 10,000-, 12,000-word pieces in on a Thursday that were to close the following Wednesday. But something else changed in a way that is more important. Prior to Tina, the magazine really had been writer-driven, and I think this is why they gave the writers so much liberty. They wanted the writers to develop their own, often eccentric, interests.
Under Tina, writing concepts began to originate in editors' meetings, and assignments were given out to writers who were essentially told what to write. And a lot of what the editors wanted was designed to be timely and of the moment and tended to change from day to day. So the result was that we were working on pieces that were really much more controversial and much less well-formulated than anything we had dealt with previously, and often we would put teams of checkers to work on these pieces and checking and editing could go on all night.
Not a surprise really, but the New Yorker's endorsement of Obama for President is a clear headed assessment of his first term and an effect critique against the "increasingly reactionary and rigid" Republican Party which Romney, to his discredit, has aligned himself with.
Perhaps inevitably, the President has disappointed some of his most ardent supporters. Part of their disappointment is a reflection of the fantastical expectations that attached to him. Some, quite reasonably, are disappointed in his policy failures (on Guantánamo, climate change, and gun control); others question the morality of the persistent use of predator drones. And, of course, 2012 offers nothing like the ecstasy of taking part in a historical advance: the reëlection of the first African-American President does not inspire the same level of communal pride. But the reëlection of a President who has been progressive, competent, rational, decent, and, at times, visionary is a serious matter. The President has achieved a run of ambitious legislative, social, and foreign-policy successes that relieved a large measure of the human suffering and national shame inflicted by the Bush Administration. Obama has renewed the honor of the office he holds.
This paragraph is terrifying:
In pursuit of swing voters, Romney and Ryan have sought to tamp down, and keep vague, the extremism of their economic and social commitments. But their signals to the Republican base and to the Tea Party are easily read: whatever was accomplished under Obama will be reversed or stifled. Bill Clinton has rightly pointed out that most Presidents set about fulfilling their campaign promises. Romney, despite his pose of chiselled equanimity, has pledged to ravage the safety net, oppose progress on marriage equality, ignore all warnings of ecological disaster, dismantle health-care reform, and appoint right-wing judges to the courts. Four of the nine Supreme Court Justices are in their seventies; a Romney Administration may well have a chance to replace two of the more liberal incumbents, and Romney's adviser in judicial affairs is the embittered far-right judge and legal scholar Robert Bork. The rightward drift of a court led by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito -- a drift marked by appalling decisions like Citizens United -- would only intensify during a Romney Presidency. The consolidation of a hard-right majority would be a mortal threat to the ability of women to make their own decisions about contraception and pregnancy, the ability of institutions to alleviate the baneful legacies of past oppression and present prejudice, and the ability of American democracy to insulate itself from the corrupt domination of unlimited, anonymous money. Romney has pronounced himself "severely conservative." There is every reason to believe him.
The endorsements of major newspapers can be tracked here.
You may have heard recently that Kanye West's Twitter account is really something special. If you heard that, it's true. If not, you're hearing it now. Paul and Storm and Josh A. Cagan have made Kanye's Tweets even better, though, by matching them with New Yorker Cartoons. Scroll through their Twitter feeds and you'll find gold.
(Via The New Yorker)
Mary Norris works as a page O.K.'er for the New Yorker.
It's always good, before changing something, to stop and wonder if this is a mistake or if the writer did this for a reason. When you've read a piece five or more times, it is tempting to believe that it must be perfect, but you have to stay alert for anything you might have missed. Eternal vigilance!
The New Yorker has an iPhone-specific site up. (thx, @level39)
A pair of related articles from the New Yorker last week. The first is a Talk of the Town piece on a water-pistol ambush game played by the students at a New York City private school.
Willis Cohen was finally killed through no fault of his own. He woke up one day and, as usual, hopped a neighbor's fence and exited through another house. He caught a livery cab on Amity Street and headed north to the Heights. He knew he was in trouble when his driver refused to raise the windows. A member of the Gaisford team shot him in the chest through the cab's passenger-side window as he pulled up to the school.
The second is a piece by John Seabrook is about David Kennedy and his approach to reducing gang-related murder through a combination of community support and "one strike and everyone's out" policy.
At the initial call-in, Victor Garcia was the first to speak. He told the young men that he loved them, that they had value to their community, and that he knew they were better than their violent actions implied. Afterward, Chief Steicher addressed them, thanking them for coming, and making it clear that "this is nothing personal." He then delivered the message: "We know who you are, we know who your friends are, and we know what you're doing. If your boys don't stop shooting people right now, we're coming after everyone in your group."
Without too much trouble, you could imagine either of these excerpts appearing in either article. A curious editorial decision to run them in the same issue.
Dan Baum was a staff writer for The New Yorker for a time. In 2007, the magazine didn't renew his contract and he's currently explaining why (from his perspective) on Twitter (archived here). It's maddening to read the whole story 140 characters at a time but it's pretty interesting inside-baseball stuff, where baseball = professional writing. Here are some of the highlights so far (he's not quite done yet).
First, a little about the job of New Yorker staff writer. "Staff writer" is a bit of a misnomer, as you're not an employee, but rather a contractor. So there's no health insurance, no 401K, and most of all, no guarantee of a job beyond one year. My gig was a straight dollars-for-words arrangement: 30,000 words a year for $90,000. And the contract was year-to-year. Every September, I was up for review. Turns out, all New Yorker writers work this way, even the bigfeet. It's Just the way the New Yorker chooses to behave. It shows no loyalty to its writers, yet expects full fealty in return. It gets away with it, because writing for the New Yorker is the ne plus ultra of journalism gigs. Like everybody, I loved it.
Some early advice from his editor on how to structure a story:
"Think about trying a process story," he said, using a term I'd never heard. "It's a New Yorker standard," he went on. "You simply deconstruct a process for the reader. John McPhee was the master. It makes for a simple structure."
More editorial advice:
Great piece of New Yorker advice: "This is the New Yorker, so you can use any narrative structure you like," he said. "Just know that when I get it, I'm going to take it apart and make it all chronological." Telling a story in strict chronological order turned out to be a fabulous discipline. It made the story easy to write, and may be why New Yorker stories are so easy to read. Of course, the magazine does run everything through the deflavorizer, following Samuel Johnson's immortal advice: "Read what you have written, and when you come across a passage you think is particularly fine, strike it out."
On the magazine's legendary fact-checkers:
The editing is as superb as you'd imagine. And it's lovely to have all the time and resources you need. I particularly liked the fact-checkers, who go way beyond getting names spelled right and actually do a lot of reporting. More than once, the fact-checkers uncovered information I hadn't had, found crucial sources I hadn't interviewed. It's like having a team of back-up reporters.
Baum has an unconventional working relationship with his wife:
All the work that goes out under my byline is at least half the work of my wife, Margaret Knox.
More details on that arrangement are available on his/their web site. Margaret edits while Dan writes.
Non-fiction frequently calls for a strong individual voice, and occasionally the use of the first person, so double bylines often aren't practical. Dan most often does the legwork of reporting the story -- the travel and the phone calls -- with Margaret acting as bureau chief: "Ask this." "Don't forget that." "Go back to him tomorrow." Dan then writes the first draft.
On second thought, perhaps it's not that unconventional at all. Since Meg and I started going out nine years ago, we've collaborated on several projects without shared credit; I provided much advice related to Blogger, Kinja, and Megnut and she's always operating behind the scenes here at kottke.org.
But back to the Baum/Knoxes. On their site, they've posted a bunch of proposals they wrote to magazines that resulted in good assignments. Among them is a proposal that New Yorker editor John Bennet called "the best proposal he'd ever read". The Baum/Knoxes have also shared a series of their failed proposals. These proposals and the ongoing Twitter story are a gold mine for young writers...fascinating stuff. (via the awl)
Update: Baum has published the whole story in a more readable format. (thx, richard)
I'll be at The New Yorker Summit today attempting some sort of live-ish coverage.
With a new President in office, our country is in a period of immense challenges, from unprecedented economic tumult to a worldwide environmental crisis. With more at stake than at any time in recent memory, we are compelled to put forward new solutions and new thinking. In this spirit, The New Yorker Summit: The Next 100 Days will gather economic heavyweights and national-policy voices to look at the formative days of the new Administration, and to explore what lies ahead in the next hundred days.
The New Yorker is being sued for $10 million over a story written by Jared Diamond. The fascinating story, Vengeance Is Ours, tells of blood feuds in New Guinea and now two of the men described in the article as participating in those feuds say they have been falsely accused of "serious criminal activity" and "murder".
When foreigners come to our culture, we tell stories as entertainment. Daniel's stories were not serious narrative, and Daniel had no idea he was being interviewed for publication. He has never killed anyone or raped a woman. He certainly has never stolen a pig.
I get the impression that Diamond has spent a lot of time in Papua New Guinea and, as a result, might not be taken in so easily by locals telling tall tales. Indeed, a fact-checking research team was told by one of the men in question that "the stories he told Diamond were in fact true".
The Complete New Yorker DVD set is on sale at the NYer's site for $20 or for as low as $15 (used) or $21 (new) on Amazon. Of course, the whole thing is available for free online, but if you need the discs, now's the time. (via the millions)
In Rockefeller Center Ho!, published in the Talk of the Town section of the Feb 11, 1956 issue of the New Yorker, John Updike described the discovery of a path from the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Center that didn't make use of 5th or 6th Avenues. Instead he cut through building lobbies, parking lots, and underground passages on his way through the thicket of Midtown's tall buildings.
Recently a pair of New Yorker staffers set out to discover if Updike's journey could still be made and brought back photographic evidence.
A stingy parking attendant refused to let us pass through his gate to Fortieth Street. Faced with no other option, we offered to pay the half-hour fee to park a car; his bemused manager finally let us through without charge.
Many who work in Midtown use shortcuts like these on especially cold days (like today) to minimize the time spent outside while walking from the train or bus. I only worked up there for a couple of years, but I still learned a cut-through trick or two.
The New Yorker has announced the winners of the 2009 Eustace Tilley contest, which encouraged people to reïmagine the magazine's monocled mascot. These are all pretty good...the cab driver is an understated favorite.
The New Yorker is holding their second annual Eustace Tilley Contest in which they invite readers to make their own variations on the magazine's "iconic dandy". Here are last year's submissions.
The Mind-Blowingly Wonderful: It's every single page of every single issue of the New Yorker, from 1925 to the present, available online whenever you need it. No 9 DVDs needed. No plug-ins either, just a plain old web browser. And it's free with your subscription. Sweet fancy licorice!
The Good: Individual issues are bookmarkable. Forward and back arrows work to flip pages. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up for four-issue trial or subscribe to just the digital version (~$40/year). At full zoom, the text is clear and easy to read. When an article doesn't appear for free on the New Yorker site, you're directed to the article in the Digital Reader. The DR is in beta and they're soliciting feedback.
The Bad and Not-So-Bad: The Digital Reader works on the iPhone...more or less. It's definitely not optimized for the phone and crashes often but works in a pinch. Some of the issues are missing...1962 and 1963 are largely AWOL. Issue archive always defaults to 2008, even while you're browsing an issue from 1937. Keyword search doesn't seem to work on older issues, i.e. most of the archive. There are a bunch of cool features that they could build on top of this thing: archive-wide search, compile/share lists of articles with other subscribers (i.e. make your own NYer mag from articles from back issues), keyword cross-referencing, etc.
The Ugly: Sadly, the actual reading interface is the worst part of the DR. The reader's interaction with the app relies too much on the mouse...more shortcut keys are needed (zoom, shortcut to TOC, move to top of next column, next/prev issue, etc.). Flipping through the digital magazine is easy enough but reading cannot comfortably be done at the page-flipping size. But when you zoom in, you need to zoom back out before you can flip to the next page. Guess how long it takes until that gets completely annoying? (A: After precisely one page turn.) I'd also like the magazine to fill as much of my screen as it can but instead the size of the viewing window is constrained. Bascially, make the thing as big as the screen will allow and give the reader one button to push to keep reading.
Even more maddening: after a short time, you have to re-login. I don't know if this is triggered by a period of inactivity or what, but it gets on all my nerves. (A "remember me" option that works across browser sessions would be welcome too.)
All-in-all, not enough attention was paid to the overall experience...it feels a bit like drinking fine wine from a sippy cup. That the Digital Reader exists is a great start but its shortcomings put too many roadblocks between the reader and her enjoyment of these great magazines, making the experience less wonderful than it could be. People *love* this magazine and the New Yorker should do everything it can to make people love reading it online.
Illustrator Bob Staake explains the process behind his cover on this week's politically themed New Yorker, including rejected alternatives and a video progression of the finished design. Staake still uses a copy of Photoshop 3.0 on MacOS 7 to do his illustrations. That was a great version of Photoshop...I remember not wanting to switch myself. (via df)
Update: Staake uses OS X with MacOS 9 running in the background:
Let me clear up today's rumor: I do NOT work in OS 7. I use OSX and run classic (9.0) in the background. Photoshop 3.0? Yes, STILL use that.
I think this is a first (or a mistake): the entire issue of the latest New Yorker is available online for free. Usually they leave 5-7 articles offline so's to get your cheap ass to the newsstand.
My Olympics-themed New Yorker cartoon idea: Two men walk down the hallway of an office. One of the men, just laid off, carries a box with his things in it and says to the other man, "Don't worry, I'll work my way back through the repechage."
The stodgy old New Yorker has a Twitter account and its friends are NPR, Harper's, Gothamist, Huffington Post, the NY Times, and the WSJ, among others. Magazines should have friends, no? (Sniff, the WSJ has no friends.)
I'll be at the New Yorker conference today and some attempt to provide an alive weblogging of the goings-on will be made. On the slate are kottke.org tagholders David Remnick, Rebecca Mead, David Chang, Malcolm Gladwell, and James Surowiecki.
In past few years, several prominent US magazines and newspapers have begun to offer their extensive archives online and on DVD. In some cases, this includes material dating back to the 1850s. Collectively it is an incredible record of recent human history, the ideas, people, and events that have shaped our country and world as recorded by writers, photographers, editors, illustrators, advertisers, and designers who lived through those times. Here are some of most notable of those archives:
Harper's Magazine offers their entire archive online, from 1850 to 2008. Most of it is only available to the magazine's subscribers. Associate editor Paul Ford talks about how Harper's archive came to be.
The NY Times provides their entire archive online, most of it for free. Most of the stories from 1923 to 1986 are available for a small fee. The Times briefly launched an interface for browsing their archive called TimesMachine but withdrew it soon after launch.
Time Magazine has their entire archive online for free, from 1923 to the present.
Sports Illustrated has all their issues online for free, dating back to 1954.
The Atlantic Monthly offers all their articles since Nov 1995 and a growing number from their archive dating back to 1857 for free. For a small fee, most of the rest of their articles are available as well, although those from Jan 1964 - Sept 1992 are not.
The Washington Post has archives going back to 1877. Looks like most of it is for pay.
The New Yorker has free archives on their site going back to 2001, although only some of the articles are included. All of their articles, dating back to 1925, are available on The Complete New Yorker DVD set for $40.
Rolling Stone offers some of their archive online but the entire archive (from 1967 to 2007) is available as a 4-DVD set for $79.
Mad Magazine released a 2-DVD set of every issue of the magazine from 1952-2006.
And more to come...old media is slowly figuring out that more content equals more traffic, sometimes much more traffic.
Update: Nature has their entire archive online, dating back to 1869. (thx, gavin)
Speaking of podcasts, The New Yorker has a couple of interesting ones on iTunes: readings from the Fiction section and from the weekly Comment essay in Talk of the Town.
The New Yorker's Eustace Tilley Contest just ended. Contestants were asked to design their own version of the New Yorker's monocled mascot; here are all the entries. The winner will be announced on Feb 4. (via waxy)
As part of this weekend's New Yorker Festival, a parkour demonstration was held at Javits Plaza. Before the demonstration, Alex Wilkinson talked with David Belle, the inventor of parkour and the subject of Wilkinson's NYer article about parkour from April. In the interview and the Q&A that followed the demonstration, Belle explained that parkour is not about competition or showing off or being reckless. It's a test of self, of control, of deliberate practice. The journey is the point, not the sometimes spectacular results.
The demonstration consisted of a group of about 20-30 parkour practitioners, beginners and experts alike from all over the country. It seemed as though they included anyone with parkour experience who showed up and wanted to participate, and instead of a highly polished display of high skill (which is what I think the audience might have been expecting), we were treated to a more authenic look at the sport. The first five minutes were taken up with calisthenics and stretching in preparation of the jumps and vaults to come. After warming up properly, they began running through the course, each participant picking his way through the course according to desire and ability.
Experimentation was the rule of the day, not performance. With each pass, you could see the group learning the particulars of the course, where the good holds were, finding smoother combinations, and, much of the time, trying and failing. And then trying again until they got it. There was a single woman participant, one of several beginners in the group. When she had some trouble with an obstacle, Belle and his "lieutenant" stopped to show her some moves, a moment that revealed more about parkour than Belle's jump across a ten-foot gap twenty feet off the ground. Belle himself didn't do too much during the performance -- a couple of high jumps -- and had to be coaxed during the Q&A to perform one last big move for the audience. He shrugged off the applause and attention as he back-flipped down to the concrete, knowing that the true parkour had taken place earlier.
From the letters to the editor in the Sept 24 issue of the New Yorker, a letter from John Yohalem, New York City:
I enjoyed reading Tim Page's essay on living with Asperger's syndrome: the insomnia, the social puzzlement, the obsession with various subjects to the exclusion of more common ones -- all are very familiar to me. ("Parallel Play," August 20th). Then came this description: "In the late nineteen-seventies, I saw a ragged, haunted man who spent urgent hours dodging the New York transit police to trace the dates and lineage of the Hapsburg nobility on the walls of the subway stations." I was the gentleman in question; although I didn't care about clothes, I don't think I was that ragged. I want to assure Mr. Page that I was never homeless or institutionalized (as he guessed), and I got only one ticket. Mr. Page and I had other things in common; like him, I was at the première of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" at Town Hall. Unlike Mr. Page, I did not find this particular music's structure all-engrossing; I preferred to dance to it. At one performance of Reich's music at the U.S. Custom House, I danced alone around and around the central musicians. For someone as acutely self-conscious as I had been, this seemed a moment of glorious emergence, of living my own life in everyone else's world.
Here's Tim Page's piece on what it was like growing up with Asperger's syndrome.
So preoccupied are we with our inner imperatives that the outer world may overwhelm and confuse. What anguished pity I used to feel for pinatas at birthday parties, those papier-mache donkeys with their amiable smiles about to be shattered by little brutes with bats. On at least one occasion, I begged for a stay of execution and eventually had to be taken home, weeping, convinced that I had just witnessed the braining of a new and sympathetic acquaintance.
Of course Yohalem has a blog -- the 21st century equivalent to scribbling Hapsburg lineages on subway walls -- which has a more complete version of the above posted there.
Artist Lou Romano is on fire. He did the cover for the June 25th New Yorker and he's the voice for Linguini, the main human character in Ratatouille. Visit Romano's blog.
If you're unfamiliar with the alternate side parking shuffle that happens once or twice a week in most areas of NYC, Jen Bekman has a good description of it. I'm convinced the New Yorker would go out of business if it weren't for the shuffle...a lot of 6,000 word articles get read waiting for the meter maid to come around.
Analysis of a recent New Yorker cover, the one with the guy and girl standing in front of an abstract expressionist painting. "Rather than a couple in love with each other, with art, and with technological possibility, I see a boy with a toy, and a girl with patience. He is much more engaged with the devise; she curves demurely away." The phrase "boy with a toy, and a girl with patience" describes many American relationships, I think. (thx, david)
Update: The NYer cover is a reference to this Jan 1962 Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell. (thx, maciej)
Great interview with Hendrik Hertzberg, who writes about politics for the New Yorker. "The quality of our members of Congress is lower than similar bodies in Europe. I don't think the moral qualities are lower, but in terms of experience and expertise and knowledge of the world, they're much lower. And it's lower because the geographic basis for advancement is qualitatively different than any other field. Imagine if our music industry were geographically based, if hits were proportioned by district. Or literature or business..."
I might be shooting myself in the foot by posting this, but the table of contents for the newest issue of the New Yorker is usually available on Sunday on newyorker.com, the day before the issue hits the newsstands and arrives in subscriber mailboxes. All you need to do is hack the URL of the TOC from the previous Monday. Here's the URL for the April 23 TOC:
"2007/04/23" is the date of the issue and "toc_20070416" refers to the date of the posting. This then is the URL for the April 30 issue:
At right is the cover for tomorrow's issue, which includes Adam Gopnik's piece on the Virginia Tech shooting, a new piece by Atul Gawande, and Anthony Lane's review of Hot Fuzz. Monday's New Yorker on Sunday is usually only available to the select few of the Manhattan media elite who are sped their new issues hot off the presses. Now everyone can have a similar experience on the web.
When I saw the title for this article -- 'Most E-Mailed' List Tearing New York Times' Newsroom Apart -- I said, hey this is going to be pretty interesting. But then I click through and it's The Onion. Which is funny and all, but I'd rather read a real article on the effect the most popular lists have on the decisions made by the editorial staff at the Times, the New Yorker, and other such publications.
David Remnick may be the current editor of the New Yorker, but it's much-maligned former editor Tina Brown's team that's running the place. Love the comments at the end...the Gawker audience is almost shocked at something that's actually researched, longer than three sentences, and doesn't contain any overt drug references. Choire, you keep this up, I might have to start reading the site again.
Short profile of Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer, one of the few New Yorker contributers I make a point of reading every single time I see his byline. "I now feel like writing is the most important thing I do. In some ways, it's harder than surgery. But I do think I've found a theme in trying to understand failure and what it means in the world we live in, and how we can improve at what we do."
The New Yorker redesign just went live. Not sure if I like it yet, but I don't not like it. Some quick notes after 15 minutes of kicking the tires, starting with the ugly and proceeding from there:
- Only some of the old article URLs seem to work, which majorly sucks. This one from 2002 doesn't work and neither does this one from late 2005. This David Sedaris piece from 9/2006 does. kottke.org has links to the New Yorker going back to mid-2001...I'd be more than happy to supply them so some proper rewrite rules can be constructed. I'd say that more than 70% of the 200+ links from kottke.org to the New Yorker site are dead...to say nothing of all the links in Google, Yahoo, and 5 million other blogs. Not good.
- The full text of at least one article (Stacy Schiff's article on Wikipedia) has been pulled from the site and has been replaced by an abstract of the article and the following notice:
The New Yorker's archives are not yet fully available online. The full text of all articles published before May, 2006, can be found in "The Complete New Yorker," which is available for purchase on DVD and hard drive.
Not sure if this is the only case or if the all longer articles from before a certain date have been pulled offline. This also is not good.
- They still default to splitting up their article into multiple pages, but luckily you can hack the URL by appending "?currentPage=all" to get the whole article on one page, like so. Would be nice if that functionality was exposed.
- The first thing I looked for was the table of contents for the most recent issue because that's, by far, the page I most use on the site (it's the defacto "what's new" page). Took me about a minute to find the link...it's hidden in small text on the right-hand side of the site.
- There are several RSS options, but there's no RSS autodiscovery going on. That's an easy fix. The main feed validates but with a few warnings. The bigger problem is that the feed only shows the last 10 items, which isn't even enough to cover an entire new issue's worth of stories and online-only extras.
- A New Yorker timeline. Is this new?
- Listing of blogs by New Yorker contributors, including Gladwell, SFJ, and Alex Ross.
- Some odd spacing issues and other tiny bugs here and there. The default font size and line spacing make the articles a little hard to read...just a bit more line spacing would be great. And maybe default to the medium size font instead of the small. A little rough around the edges is all.
- The front page doesn't validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional. But the errors are pretty minor...<br> instead of <br />, not using the proper entity for the ampersand, uppercase anchor tags and the like.
- All articles include the stardard suite of article tools: change the font size, print, email to a friend, and links to Digg, del.icio.us, & Reddit. Each article is also accompanied by a list of keywords which function more or less like tags.
- Overall, the look of the site is nice and clean with ample white space where you need it. The site seems well thought out, all in all. A definite improvement over the old site.
Thanks to Neil for the heads up on the new site.
I could read interviews with David Remnick all day long. "In many ways, the magazine that we're publishing every week reflects what I want to read or what the people around me - this group of editors - find amusing or deep, or funny, or intelligent or whatever." (thx, emdashes)
The letters to the editor section of the New Yorker this week contains a correction to Stacy Schiff's piece in the magazine about Wikipedia from July 2006. The piece included an interview with Essjay who was described in the article as a tenured professor with a Ph.D. Turns out that Essjay wasn't exactly who he said he was:
At the time of publication, neither we nor Wikipedia knew Essjay's real name. Essjay's entire Wikipedia life was conducted with only a user name; anonymity is common for Wikipedia administrators and contributors, and he says that he feared personal retribution from those he had ruled against online. Essjay now says that his real name is Ryan Jordan, that he is twenty-four and holds no advanced degrees, and that he has never taught.
The full editor's note is appended to the original article.
Rebecca Mead's new book on the state of weddings in America is available for preorder on Amazon. Mead writes for the New Yorker; the book is out in May. "Mead takes us into a world populated by Bridezillas, ministers-for-hire, videographers, and heirloom manufacturers, exposing the forces behind the consumerist mindset of the American bride and the entrepreneurial zeal of the wedding industry that both serves and exploits her. "
How the newspaper gets made: 1. The Washington Post runs an article on Dec 24, 2006 about how the New Yorker picks its cartoons, which article mentions in passing that several of the magazine's cartoonists gather weekly at a Manhattan restaurant. 2. Three weeks go by. 3. The NY Times publishes a piece profiling said weekly gathering of the cartoonists at the Manhattan restaurant.
Back in the late 60s and early 70s, the New Yorker serialized the first chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses in the theater listings for long-running productions. "In 1970, New Yorker edidor Gardner Botsford explained to Time magazine that he began the serialization of Ulysses because he got bored writing the same straight capsule reviews week after week."
How the New Yorker picks its cartoons. "The funniest cartoon is not necessarily the best cartoon. Funnier means that you laugh harder, and everybody's gonna laugh harder at more aggressive cartoons, more obscene cartoons. It's a Freudian thing. It gives more relief. But is it a better joke? To me, better means having more truth in it, having both the humor and the pain and therefore having more meaning and more poetry."
Chan Marshall (AKA Cat Power) on the Richard Avedon photo of her in the New Yorker: "I was so drunk I could barely stand up. I couldn't zip up my pants because my stomach was killing me. I didn't even realize I wasn't wearing underwear until the magazine came out." (via conscientious)
Slate has gone to the dark side by splitting up their articles into multiple pages. I hate this reader-hostile bullshit. At least they have a single page option. But why not have that as the default and have the pagination be the option? (That was rhetorical, btw...the reason online pubs split stories up is to increase ad views.) (thx, john)
Looks like a good issue of the New Yorker this week, including a profile of Will Wright and a review of Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map.
Praise be! The New Yorker seems to have reversed their position on splitting their articles up into multiple pages...the articles from this week's issue all seem to be one-pagers (for example). Nice work.
Update: I spoke too soon...they are still doing multi-page articles. What I observed seemed to be a technological hiccup. Booo!!!
Fuck, this pisses me off: the New Yorker is splitting up their longer pieces into multiple pages (for example: Ben McGrath's article on YouTube). I know, everyone else does it and it's some sort of "best practice" that we readers let them get away with so they can boost pageviews and advertising revenue at the expense of user experience, but The New Yorker was the last bastion of good behavior on this issue and I loved them for it. This is a perfect example of an architecture of control in design and uninnovation. I want the New Yorker's web site to get better, not worse. Blech and BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Update: Dan Lockton has some further thoughts on multi-page articles.
Update: The New Yorker seems to have reversed their opinion on the matter. Nice work.
Update: Nope, still busted. Crap.
Last month I covered the hubbub surrounding the still-potential proof of the Poincare conjecture. The best take on the situation was a New Yorker article by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber, detailing the barest glimpse of the behind-the-scenes workings of the mathematics community, particularly those involving Grigory Perelman, a recluse Russian mathematician who unveiled his potential Poincare proof in 2002 and Shing-Tung Yau, a Chinese mathematician who, the article suggested, was out for more than his fair share of the credit in this matter.
After declining the Fields Medal, the Nobel Prize of mathematics, Perelman has quit mathematics and lives quietly in his native Russia. Yau, however, is upset at his portrayal (both literally and literary) in the New Yorker article and has written a letter to the New Yorker asking them to make a prominent correction and apologize for an illustration of Yau that accompanied the article. From the letter:
I write in the hope of enlisting your immediate assistance, as well as the assistance of The New Yorker, in undoing, to the extent possible, the literally world-wide damage done to Dr. Yau's reputation as a result of the publication of your article. I also write to outline for you, on a preliminary basis, but in some detail, several of the more egregious and actionable errors which you made in the article, and the demonstrably shoddy "journalism" which resulted in their publication.
The letter, addressed to the two authors as well as the fact-checker on the article and CC'd to David Remnick and the New Yorker's general counsel, runs 12 pages, so you may want to have a look at the press release instead. A webcast discussing all the details of the letter is being held at noon on September 20...information on how to tune in will be available at Dr. Yau's web site. (thx, david)
The Guardian has a nice profile/interview of David Remnick. Incidentally, Remnick has a monster 25-page profile of Bill Clinton in this week's New Yorker...well worth reading if you can track down a copy of the magazine; consider this Q&A with Remnick about the article a tasty snack.
Emdashes has the lineup for the New Yorker festival. Lots of good stuff there....plus a "New Yorker Dance Party". Woo, sounds fun doesn't it, kids? Tickets on sale Sept 7.
New Yorker review of Chris Anderson's new book, The Long Tail. Oddly, there's no disclaimer that Anderson works for the same company that publishes The New Yorker. Not that the review is all synergistic sunshine; the last half pokes a couple of holes in Anderson's arguments.
Robert Birnbaum interview with Susan Orlean. Here's his first interview with her from 2001.
Update: I linked to this without reading it first, something I *never* do, but now that I've read it, there's really some great stuff in there about the writing process, magazines (specifically The New Yorker), and editing. And great quotes like "I'd rather work for Drunken Boat than for Time magazine, to be honest with you". Ouch for Time magazine.
The Chicago Tribune has published their list of the 50 best magazines of 2006. Top fiving it for you: The Economist, Dwell, Wired, The New Yorker, and ESPN the Magazine.
Audio versions of dozens of New Yorker articles. Perfect for the long morning commute (if I had a long morning commute). The same site also has audio versions of several other publications, including Wired, The Atlantic Monthly, and Scientific American. What a great resource. (via rw)
Update: Get them all at once, instructions here.
Writer Roger Angell on a leisurely approach to reporting. "Shawn didn't have a sense of deadline. [David] Remnick now wants it next week, which is fine. It's that sort of a magazine, and I try to oblige. Shawn thought, Everybody knows what the news is; now tell us something else about it." More on William Shawn.
Interview with David Remnick about the revitalization of the New Yorker and what exactly it is that makes that magazine unique. "My principle in the magazine - and I am not being arrogant - is that I don't lose sleep trying to figure what the reader wants. I don't do surveys. I don't check the mood of the consumers. I do what I want, what interests me and a small group of editors that influences the way of the magazine." (thx, george)
Email correspondance between members of The New Yorker staff and one of Caitlin Flanagan's sources in writing this story about Mary Poppins' author P.L. Travers. The source, Travers biographer Valerie Lawson, wrote a letter to the editor complaining that Flanagan had not properly attributed items in the story to Lawson. "The exchange offers a glimpse at the sausage-factory aspect of how the magazine handles complaints, and raises interesting questions about what journalists owe, in terms of recognition, to their sources."
Michael Bierut on the "slow design" of the New Yorker. "In contrast, one senses that each of the changes in The New Yorker was arrived at almost grudgingly. Designers are used to lecturing timid clients that change requires bravery. But after a certain point -- 80 years? -- not changing begins to seem like the bravest thing of all."
In-progress ideas for New Yorker cartoons. "Or some other recent culture reference. Or something involving wine, or Europe."
The New Yorker has posted online Brokeback Mountain, the 1997 short story by Annie Proulx on which the Jake Gyllenylnllynyyllhaal / Heath Ledger / Ang Lee film is based.
Harsh review of the user interface for The Complete New Yorker. My experience was better (changing issues took me only a few seconds), but the interface does leave a lot to be desired.
The right of Conde Nast to sell The Complete New Yorker (which is completely awesome from a content standpoint, BTW) without paying authors for republish rights is a gray area legally. National Geographic has stopped selling a similar collection because of the unsure legal terrain.
Peter Schjeldahl, in a harsh review of graphic novels for the New Yorker (with particular contempt for Harvey Pekar), suggests that the artistic breakthrough of graphic novels has occurred, been recognized, and "that a process of increasingly strained emulation and diminishing returns has set in", citing Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan as the form's peak. Here's a positive review of Ware's newest collection.
Here's the formula for a New Yorker cartoon: take a person/entity from Column A, and have them interact with a person/entity from Column B in a location from Column C. Voila, comedy jackpot!
The writer of this blog hates the New Yorker, especially the David Denby part of it. From reading the site a bit, it seems to me that they actually like the NYer, but wish it were better, a feeling which I've had for several things in my life.
The August 22nd issue of the New Yorker (which comes out on, duh, August 15th) will contain ads from only one advertiser, Target.