will the New Yorker be like in 20 years?
To my mind, The New Yorker, whatever experiments occur, the most
interesting experiments to occur, the ending of radical departure are in
the writing. To me, that’s where the excitement is. Will we be on an
iPad? Absolutely. I hope we look great there and if people want to read
us there fantastic. We’re working very hard to do that just as we’ve
worked hard to have a Web site that’s worthy of the name.
of The New Yorker, as long as I’m there, is that we are not going to
change who we are, no matter what the delivery systems are, no matter
what the means of reading us. We are about reading. We’re about long
form journalism, analysis, humor, fiction, poetry, a sense of delight, a
sense of seriousness when it’s appropriate. If we start giving away
these core things because in the short term we somehow think, "Wow, you
know, actually three paragraph long pieces, the hell with George Packer
doing 15,000 words on American politics, or Sy Hersh writing an
extremely knotty piece about some aspect of intelligence or sending
somebody to Afghanistan three times to get the story, or unleashing
David Grand for six months to get a death penalty piece, or what have
you." In other words what I think of as the core of The New Yorker. I’m
not here to get rid of fiction because I think that not 100 percent of
the people read it. I don’t care about that. I think this is a formula
that took a long, long time to develop and people want what we do. They
may want to read it on a different device soon enough and it’s not
coming, it’s here.
Most of our readers at this point still think
the best technology for reading it is on print. Those proportions will
inevitably change. How much they will change, I don’t know. I’m not a
media fortuneteller, I’m not a, God forbid, a media consultant. I’m here
to edit the magazine and be as nimble as we can be in terms of this
period of technological challenge and interest and it potentially will
bring us more and more readers. But, I promise you that no matter what
form you read it on, the intent is to be true to who we are. Question:
The Daily Beast’s traffic is sometimes double that of NewYorker.com.
Does that worry you?
: Not at all, and
you know, I have a lot of respect for Tina and I reject any notion that
somehow Tina was completely out of the mainstream of what The New Yorker
wanted to do. I think she brought a lot to it and a lot of the
visual aspect of The New Yorker is due to her innovation. She hired a
lot of people that are still there, that are very important to The New
Yorker. But any website that’s built around news and what’s going on now
and five minutes later and aggregating and churning what’s going on in
the moment, is inevitably going to get higher traffic. Certainly,
NYTimes.com is going to get a hell of a lot more traffic because
it’s a daily newspaper that’s now not just daily, but is trying to keep
up with the news in the moment. This is not what we’re equipped to do.
That’s not what we are built for.
I’ve been at a newspaper. I
spent 10 years of my life at The Washington Post. I know what that’s
about. I’m not going to, at The Washington Post, have a fake AP,
and we’re not going to spend all of our energies in aggregating from
all over the Internet. We’re there to create the core long form
journalism that may get aggregated by somebody else. It may get chopped
into little bits and talked about on other websites. I can live with
that easily. People want what we do and the more time goes by, and the
more time this technological revolution happens, there’s not more of
this. There’s not more depth, there’s not more deep analysis, in fact,
there’s arguably less of it because it’s expensive to do. It’s hard to
So, my hat’s off to a lot of websites. I read them, but this
is what I want to be doing at The New Yorker and that’s what my
colleagues want to be doing. Question: Who has
sensibility to bring the New Yorker into the next era?
What’s interesting to me that as unnerving as any
transformative period is, and there’s clearly, you can’t give young
writers, or journalists the advice that you used to 20 years ago. You
know, "Go to The Concord Monitor and work at a small newspaper and then
find your way to a larger one." That model, it’s almost irresponsible to
think that’s the singular piece of advice that a kind of middle-aged guy
like me should give to somebody that’s 23. It’s obscenely wrong. In
fact, the paths into journalism are now more various, they’re also more
unnerving because where you get paid for it and paid decently for it are
tougher to find. There’s no doubt that in some ways, it’s easier to get
in and easier to get noticed because the Internet is so democratic that
way, but to earn a living is getting more complicated. And I’m
determined to pay people and pay people well, talented people well.
Just so long as we can sustain a model or even a shifting model so that
we can do that. That’s the idea, that’s the trick.
Do I see
young people every bit as energetic and as intelligent, with the urge to
express themselves? You bet I do. And even at some length, not everybody
is interested I making a life as a blogger, not everybody thinks the
best means of self-expression, or even information, or writing is to
have 40 disparate thoughts in the course of the day. Some of that is
interesting; some I think is really not. There are lots of people that I
talk to in their 20’s that are really interested in doing the very same
thing in terms of long form journalism that people twice their age and
three times their age have been doing for a long time.
thrilling when we have the chance to hire new writers who are young and
who are developing. I mean and getting better all the time and are
totally obsessed with what they are doing. Somebody like Lauren Collins,
or Ariel Levy, or Kelefa Sanneh at The New Yorker, who are relatively
recent hires. It’s just fantastic and it’s also really fantastic to see
one piece be better than the last one, and the next piece be even
I mean because they’re just in the zone of growing all the time. It’s
fantastic. It’s really thrilling as an editor.
on April 9, 2010