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David Remnick

Since taking the helm of The New Yorker in 1998, David Remnick has returned the magazine to its profitable glory days. A graduate of Princeton University, he began his journalistic[…]

A conversation with the editor of The New Yorker.

Question: When did Barack Obama first come on your radar?

Davidrn Remnick: Like most people who don’t live in the South Side of rnChicago or in Illinois, the first time that I ever heard of him was whenrn he was running for Senate. And we were looking at The New Yorker for rninteresting Senate, Congressional and state house races to write about rnin addition to the presidential race and somebody mentioned this guy, rnBarack Obama, that he was interesting and he was quite possibly going torn win and it was a state where all kinds of bizarre things were happeningrn in that Senate race. Remember the first real great event was his big rndemocratic opponent, Blair Hall, disappeared from the race because of rnhis divorce records were opened up and that wasn’t a fine spectacle at rnall. And then, of course, there was this big speech. But Obama comes on rnthe scene in 2004, and unless you’re a real Illinois political nut, and rnhe gave that speech and I went to the Boston convention in the summer ofrn 2004, and was pretty damned good, he was even better on television. He rnhad really learned that fine art of giving a speech to a big crowd and rnyet, not over projecting so that it would come off as shouting on rntelevision. So he was really developing his talents in 2004. But I got rnto tell you, there’s no way in the world I thought he would be a rnPresidential candidate in 2008, much less a successful one.

Question:rn Where did the “Joshua Generation” article come from?

Davidrn Remnick: Well, we wanted to put out an issue of The New Yorker justrn after the election. It was pretty clear that Obama was going to win andrn there were going to be four or five big pieces. David Grann, Ryan rnLizza, were among the writers in that issue. I wanted to write about rnrace. And I had written a fair amount about race in my time as a rnjournalist and Ryan was interested in other things and Grann was going rnto write about McCain. And I had written a biography of Muhammad Ali andrn knew my way a little bit around the South side of Chicago because that rnwas part of the Ali geography, and politics. And I sort of took that onrn and I was intrigued by the speech that Obama gave in March, 2007, just rnafter he announced for the Presidency. In Selma, Alabama, at the rncommemoration of the great, you know, Bloody Sunday events and the marchrn from Selma to Montgomery, and he declared—first of all he gave his rngreat thanks to what he called the Moses generation; the Moses rngeneration being the Civil Rights Generation. The generation that gave rnso much opportunity to people that were coming down the line that rnsucceeded on the Civil Rights Act, on voting rights, on breaking open rnaccess to institutions like institutions of higher learning that Obama rnbenefited from. After all, he went to nothing but elite institutions: rnOccidental, Columbia, Harvard Law School. This would not have been rnpossible without the Moses Generation and even that which went before rnit.

Then he declares himself the head of the Joshua Generation, rnhis generation, people in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, who benefited from rnthese elders. And he does this incredibly ballsy thing. He says, “I’m rnthe leader of the Joshua Generation,” and he goes right after the rnAfrican-American vote because if you remember, Hillary Clinton, the rnClintons, thought they had a pretty good purchase on the rnAfrican-American vote because of their long associations. And Obama was rnchallenging them.

Question: Was it inevitable that rnObama would win the African-American vote?

David Remnick:rn Well, first of all, in order to get the Democratic nomination for the rnpresidency, the African-American vote is a very big deal. You have to rnpursue that vote and pursue it hard. Not in Iowa, of course, where therern aren’t very many, but elsewhere down the line. Obama could not assume rnthat vote was his. Remember, who knew who Barack Obama was at that rnpoint? Very few people, really insiders, people who had watched one rnspeech from him some time ago. He had to really pursue it. The Clintons rndidn’t assume that they would win it, but they had a real historical rnpurchase on it. They had associations certainly with lots and lots of rnblack leaders from around the country, after all, he had been President rnfor eight years, they had done a lot of time in black churches and blackrn groups. There was a real relationship there. There were a lot of rnloyalties. And a lot of members of the Civil Rights generation and rnpeople of that generation, media, show business, and in business, peoplern who were going to be donating money, had long associations with the rnClintons. Somebody like Vernon Jordan and people who ran BET. So Obama rncouldn’t just jump in and by dative of his being African-American assumern he was going to get that vote. He had to go out and win it.

He rngoes to Iowa, which is a white state and he won the Iowa caucuses rnrunning on the kind of appeal that you would have seen in previous rnyears, like Gary Hart. Remember, he was appealing to kind of rnwell-educated, liberal-leaning party whites, party regulars. And they rncame out in droves for him because of the level of organization in the rnstate. He wins the Iowa primary, and that starts to give people around rnthe country ideas. Suddenly, he’s on a much more equal footing with rnHillary Clinton and so black folks in places like South Carolina, which rnis a crucial primary state, said, “Uh, I see.” There's a chain reaction rnthat occurs. Now, that’s not to say that black people voted for Barack rnObama in South Carolina because they had some kind of permission from rnwhite people. But black folks didn’t want to be voting for a symbolic rncandidate. That had happened before. There had been many symbolic rncandidates, and there had even been Jesse Jackson in ’84, and ’88.

Therern is not Barack Obama, by the way, without Jesse Jackson. Jesse Jackson, rnfor all his faults, did an enormous historical good by breaking down thern barriers toward the political imagination of having a successful rnAfrican-American presidential candidate.

Question: rnWould Obama have been able to chart the course he did if he had come rnfrom a more traditionally African-American establishment?

Davidrn Remnick: Well, it’s worthwhile to kind of fact check the rnstrangeness of Barack Obama’s beginnings in racial ethnic and identity rnterms. He grows up, with the exception of a sojourn in Indonesia, in rnHawaii. And if you’ve ever been to Hawaii, first of all, there’s this rnfeeling of great, almost isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. rnAnd it’s a place that prides itself on variation, on multi-culturalism. rnPeople using that word long before it was fashionable on the mainland. rnAnd yet it’s a multi-culturalism lacking one very striking think in rnAmerican terms, black folks. And most of the black population in Hawaii,rn the little that there is, is on military bases. And Obama goes to one rnof the fanciest schools in the country, this private school called rnPuntaho, in Honolulu which looks like Exit or Andover, if you imagined rnright near the beach, lockers outside. People walking around in their rnshorts – I mean it’s just fantastically; it looks like a high school rncreated by Annette Funicello, or something, you know. A beach fantasy ofrn what high school could be.

And he goes there and it’s diverse rnin some sense. There’s lots of Asian kids of all kinds, all the various rnstrips that you see in Hawaii, but just a couple of black kids. And whenrn he goes home at night, it’s to white grandparents. So, how does he rnlearn how to be what he sees in the mirror? He pursues it by watching rnthings on television, listening to certain records, reading certain rnbooks. He goes out and assertively goes after it. And he does it then rngeographically by going to Los Angeles, but he’s kind of in Pasadena, rnand that’s not good enough for him. He goes to Columbia, which is of rncourse, close to Harlem and finally he winds up on the south side of rnChicago, and there he’s finally able to find community, a sense of rnpurpose, a sense of idealism, a church, a black church specifically, andrn he really begins to solve these identity questions there.

By rnthe time he gets to Harvard Law School, these things are resolved for rnhim, but when you go into public life, it’s a question of how people seern you. So he’s got to struggle with these questions all over again when rnhe does things like run for Congress, or State Senate.

Question:rn Did you find anything in your reporting that contradicted Obama's rnautobiography?

David Remnick: Remember, Obama rnpublished his autobiography at a time during a memoir craze in this rncountry. The ‘90’s was wall-to-wall memoirs. There were so many best rnselling memoirs and some very fine memoirs, his was just one of them. rnAnd it was the theme of his was racial identity and that pursuit. And itrn was a young man’s book, and a very accomplished book for a young man, rnsometimes a little purple, sometimes a little overwrought, but I think rnultimately honest. In other words he tells you: "Here’s where I’m going rnto shape things a little bit beyond reality, here’s where I’m going to rnplay with dialogue." He doesn’t lie. And we know in recent years from a rnlot of controversies about memoir that writers can sometimes go too far rnand they are essentially writing fiction. He did not do that. But it is rnalso a book that is bereft of politics. There is no political formation rnin that book except in the most elemental sense in terms of idealism.

Andrn also, the greatest presence in that book is the pursuit of an absence, rnthe pursuit of this father, who is really in Obama’s life in infancy, rnwhich he can’t remember, and for a 10-day trip when he was a kid. That’srn it. Obama knows his father through stories people tell, through his rnmother telling him idealized versions of his father, and then finally rnmeeting African relatives who tell him a much tougher version of rnreality. In fact, his father was enormously and deeply intelligent, rnthought he was going to be in the leadership of post-colonial Kenya, andrn in fact he fell out, he failed. He became a big drinker. He was a rnmiserable husband and father. Probably beat one of those wives, rnaccording to one of the kids, who now lives in China, and this was rndevastating to Obama to come up against this reality, and Obama’s fatherrn becomes not an example for him, but a counter-example; something not torn do, a path to not take, an emotionalism not to follow, a level of rnerratic behavior to avoid. So, not to get too psychoanalytic about this rnbecause Obama talks about it himself, he becomes a much more controlled rnfigure; somebody who keeps his cool, somebody who tried to conciliate rnrather than to upset groups of people. That becomes very much his rnpersonality.

And the figure in his own book who was the most rnpowerfully influential, who’s kind of an absence and I think sketched inrn rather lightly, is his mother. His mother is a fascinating figure. An rnintellectual, somebody who pursues an anthropological career in, for thern most part, Indonesia, who leaves him in Honolulu all throughout high rnschool while she is pursuing her career in Indonesia. He adores her, rnhe’s confused by her, he’s bemused by her because she tries to in a veryrn white, liberal, old-fashioned way help him with his search for a black rnidentity by giving him Mahalia Jackson records and tapes of Martin rnLuther King’s speeches, and he’s kind of eye-rolling about this. So, rnObama’s kind of got a rough time, an unusual time. He can’t just learn rnto be himself ethnically speaking, by sitting down at the kitchen table.rn He’s got to go out and find his way.

Question: Was rnObama’s family narrative part of a broader strategy?

Davidrn Remnick: A book is a book, and a life is a life, and in the writingrn of a memoir inevitably there is going to be some shaping, some rnsimplification, some rounding of the edges, some providing of structure rnto life. Life is a mess. Books can’t afford to be a mess. And they can rnbe messy in spots, they can be complicated and they ought to be rncomplicated, but Obama’s memoir is a highly shaped thing. It’s three bigrn parts. At the end of each one, Obama is in tears. He’s in tears in the rnchurch where he comes to accept Jesus Christ and his place in Jeremiah rnWright’s church. He’s in tears at his father’s grave as he comes to rnfinally reconcile himself to that search, etc., etc. It is life is not rnpurely like that obviously. Life is one damned thing after another. rnBooks can’t be that.

Question: Whose perspectives on rnObama were more salient to you?

David Remnick: I rnthink Obama is somebody who has always benefited by his ability to rnattract mentors, and mentors were among the best sources for this book. rnFor example, in Chicago, his great mentor, and he didn’t always get rnalong with him at all moments, is a man named Jerry Kellman. Born Jewishrn from New Rochelle, New York, he gets to Chicago, he becomes very rninvolved in Alinski-like community organizing and he converts to rnCatholicism, he’s working with a lot of Catholic Churches, black rnchurches, he brings Obama to Chicago and this is a guy, older than rnObama, who spent countless hours with him eating burgers at McDonalds rnand just talking about life. You know sitting in church basements and rnwaiting for meetings to begin and talking about race, about politics, rnabout Chicago, about people, about stuff. And somebody like that is rnenormously valuable because he talks to a Barack Obama and about a rnBarack Obama that we will never know again. Somebody that’s completely rnunguarded.

Or somebody at law school, like Lawrence Tribe, who rnwas his mentor. A great Constitutional lawyer, new Obama in a very rnprofound and for me, very striking and interesting way. There are all rnkinds of people like that. Obama attracted mentors. That’s a certain rnkind of young man or young woman’s talent.

Question: rnHow has the story of Barack Obama evolved since the beginning of this rnyear?

David Remnick: It’s always useful, rnjournalistically, to remember the kind of sine curve of defeat and rnvictory. I remember just a couple of months ago, we ran a cover that hadrn four panels and Obama in three of them is walking across water in rnradiant light like you know, the great biblical figure. And in the rnfourth panel, he falls in the water. This is the nadir of the healthcarern debate. It looked like he was quite possibly was going to lose, there rnwas already talk about how horrible November elections were going to be rnfor the Democratic party, and then he turns it around. And he won. He rndidn’t win a bipartisan victory, by any means. In fact, the main rnpoliticking had to be within the Democratic party to put it over. But rnall that said, he won an enormous victory and the momentum of the rnpresidency changed. How long that will last, will it have any bearing onrn what happens in November? Well, as those reports always say, we’ll waitrn and see.

Question: Has he given up on trying to be rnbipartisan?

David Remnick: Even though Obama’s rnpolitical reflex, his political personality aims toward conciliation, rnit’s certainly what made him a political animal as early as law school. rnIt’s how he got to be the President of the Law Review, by drawing in rnconservatives as well as liberals, it’s how he succeeded. He’s not a rnfool. He sees reality. He sees the partisan divisiveness in the rnCongress. He wants to win. This is not some kind of pie-eyed idealist. rnLook at the health care bill, that bill contracted and was shaped over rntime in ways he may not have wanted, but he wanted to win. He did not rnwant to walk out of there a gallant loser. Conciliation is also not a rnstrategy that will necessarily work with pretty stubborn international rnforces. Conciliation, or charm, is not something that’s going to work rnwith Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or any other political force of that like.

There’srn also a toughness to him. It’s not toughness that obstreperous and rnswaggering, but he’s capable of it.

Question: How far rnleft is Obama?

David Remnick: I think the notion thatrn Barack Obama is a radical is preposterous. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who rnis quoted in my book as saying that the only radical thing, the only rntrue radical thing about Barack Obama is that he’s African-American. Andrn I think that’s true. That his politics are center/center-left, they come out rnof the tradition of the Democratic Party. In many ways they are rncontinuations of lines taken by the Clinton Administration. You know, rnlook at the healthcare bill itself. This is a more modest healthcare rnbill than many proposed by others. He got what he could get and he rnsucceeded. Look at the so-called radical nuclear arms treaty just signedrn with the Russians. There’s a lot of criticism on the right saying, rnBarack Obama is giving away our security. He is stripping us of our rncapacity to project strength in the world and to protect ourselves, and rnin fact, the great left-winger Ronald Reagan was far more radical when rnit came to nuclear arms policy.

Remember, Rekjavik in the period,rn I think Gorbachev-Reagan period were those two men who were intent on rnreducing nuclear stockpiles to nothing. And here we’ve reduced it by a rnthird. I mean, the notion that Barack Obama somehow came out of a rnradical cauldron in Chicago and somewhere in his desk drawer, in the rnResolute Desk in the Oval Office is a copy of Marx and Gramsci and Leninrn is just obscene. It’s ridiculous. And there are just too many elements rnin the media and in politics trying to stoke these fires for those rnabsurd notions to disappear.

Question: Will the rnRepublicans win in the midterm elections?

David Remnick:rn It’s very difficult to see. Look, I think there is a legitimate rnconservative opposition, as you would expect. Of course that’s going to rnhappen. There’s going to be a legitimate Republican opposition, there’s rngoing to be battles. What concerns me is not that so much. What concernsrn me deeply is the outer edges of it and the nature of the outer edges ofrn it, and the way the outer edges are provoked by certain politicians and rncertain parts of the internet and television, cable television and all rnthe rest. And the end result of some of that kind of ugliness can be rnbeyond our reckoning; really beyond our reckoning. And I don’t want to rnbe too alarmist of it, but I remember, for example, in Israeli politics rnduring Yitzhak Rabin’s time, when the far right there stirred things up rnto such a degree that the political atmosphere in certain quarter becamern quite literally murderous.

So, I think we need to be very rncareful about lumping everybody together in, even the Tea Party Movement. I might not agree with any of it, but the extremes of it are rnreally alarming.

Question: How is the global rntransition of power affecting Obama’s foreign policies?

Davidrn Remnick: Well, Obama is president at a time where there’s no rnquestion that certain other powers in the country are asserting rnthemselves. They are asserting themselves economically, first and rnforemost, and politically in the world system, such as it is. And the rnnotion of unquestioned American singularity is ending. And that’s very rnpainful for people to take on board.

And that two of the big powers, two of thern big rising powers are questioning the orthodoxy that we believe in evenrn on the right and the left, which is that somehow a liberal economic rnsystem—and you can obviously argue about the parameters about that—go rnhand in hand with the democratic political system. China and Russia are rnchallenging at their very basis. China is implicitly and explicitly rnarguing to the world that they don’t need political liberty in our rnsense, or democracy, in order to develop at the rate that they’re rndeveloping.

The Russians, the same thing. I mean, this is a kindrn of soft authoritarian. Sometimes it’s not so soft under Putin and rnMedvedev. The degree of democracy there is decorative. There’s not an rnindependent judiciary, the legislature is in the pocket of the rnexecutive. And there’s a kind of social compact in Russia. The social rncompact with the people is: "We will let you develop economically and letrn you travel and let you build businesses so long as you stay the hell rnout of politics." And in China, there is roughly much the same thing rngoing on. This is a deep, deep challenge to the American understanding, rnto the Western European understanding, even to the Indian understanding rnof the course of historical development of successful societies.

Irn think, obviously, Obama’s committed to the American model and the Western model and any democratic model that also is essentially rncapitalistic, but I think Obama is more willing to talk about this multi-polarrn world in terms that certainly some of his predecessors would have been rnscared to, or reluctant to for political reasons.

You know, I rnthink Fareed Zakaria has got the frame of it right in his book. And rnZakaria says that it’s not about the decline of American power so rnmuch as the rise of the power of others; India, China, Russia, now rnBrazil. So this dream that a lot of American had after the collapsern of the Soviet Union, post-1991, of American singularity in every sense rnwas very, very short-lived.

Question: What needs to be done to address the Mideast Conflict?


To my mind, there’s no question of rnwhat the end of the Israeli-Palestine situation has to be, must be. And rnthis has been evident to most of the main players for many years. There rnhas to be a viable, contiguous Palestinian state, a connected Gaza and rnWest Bank—connected somehow by bridge, highway, what have you, with it’srn capital in East Jerusalem. It is impossible to conceive that the rnrefugee problem can be solved by actual repatriation of refugees into rnIsrael proper. That there’ll be obviously some degree of aid, or money rngoing to the new Palestinian state. And also Israel also has to receive rncertain kinds of security guarantees, and those areas where big rnsettlement blocks are, there has to be land swaps to make up for that. rnThat’s the end game. And even pretty conservative political actors in rnIsrael know it, and all but the most radical Palestinian leaders know rnit. The real difficulty has been getting there, and it’s going to get rnmore and more and more difficult. It’s going to get more difficult rnbecause of the polarization in Palestinian political society between rnHamas and the West Bank government. It’s going to get more difficult in rnIsrael itself because of the growth in population of religious and rnconservative elements, and the slow diminution of secular, more rnliberal-leaning populations. You also have a great big Russian rnpopulation that tends to be conservative.

So, time is not on thern side of a decent resolution there. It’s very, very complex. But the rnmore somebody like Netanyahu is unwilling to make a leap of history and rnis going to be more obsessed with parochial political interests and rncoalition politics and all the rest, the more difficult it’s going to rnget on Israeli side. And there’s no question, by the way, that the rnIsraelis have real concerns about what would happen the day after a rnPalestinian state is established.

So, this is a highly complex rnquestion, it always was, but the endgame is going to be what the endgame is going to be. Otherwise it’s going to be a disaster.

I rnthink there’s an illusion among some right-wing Israelis and right-wingrn Israeli politicians. And the illusion is this: that by establishing a rnsecurity fence or wall, it’s cut down on terrorism immensely, and it’s rngiven the illusion of a kind of rough stability that they can live with rnit and they can have their cake and eat it too. If they can keep all rnthese settlements in the West Bank and they can have a rough security, rnand they can live with a few missiles going over the wall in Gaza. This rnis just an illusion—especially when it comes to relations with other rncountries, not least the United States. It’s an illusion for everybody.

Question:rn Will Obama find himself in a position to change this?

Davidrn Remnick: You know, there have been reports, and I first read them rnin David Ignatius’ column in The Washington Post the other day, that thern American administration, the Obama Administration realizes that this rnhas been a mess in the last several weeks. You know, the back and forth rnabout these apartments in East Jerusalem and all the—I hesitate to callrn it minutia because they’re important,but that the Obama rnAdministration, with the encouragement with some outside forces, other rncountries, wants to have a much more comprehensive plan. It’s difficult rnto see how that plan could work, but the alternative is even worse. Thisrn illusion of a continued status quo is to me, extremely dangerous.

Question:rn Why isn't Netanyahu more worried about the status quo?

Davidrn Remnick: Well, it’s important to know where this illusion comes rnfrom. The illusion comes from the notion, whether you agree with it or rndisagree with it, is that settlements were removed from Gaza, Gaza rnbecame under completely under Israeli control and in the Israeli point rnof view, its only reward was that missiles came, coming over the wall. rnAnd missiles that will inevitably become more and more sophisticated and reach rnplaces far more distanced and will hit major population centers, and rnmissiles that are inevitably going to come from places like Iran.

So,rn also a lot of Israelis—and not just very right-wing Israelis—wonder rnwhy the Palestinians have had a habit of looking away from potential rnresolutions to this question as they did in the late Clinton rnAdministration. And believe me, I know all the arguments back and forth rnabout what that deal was and was not and how it improved and how it rnchanged, right up until the end of the Clinton Presidency. I do get all rnthat. But somehow one has to agree that not all the specifics of the rnClinton view that Yasser Arafat did not allow finally came up short of rnbeing a revolutionary leader rather than just a rebel leader... Thatrn finally Yasser Arafat did not want to go that extra yard and felt he rncould not sell this deal, or could not sell himself on this deal that rnwent from Camp David to Taba and then Taba two. So, a lot of Israelis rnwonder, what it is that the Palestinians actually want, and that’s wherern the anxiety comes from. It’s not me agreeing with that, I’m just tryingrn to analyze why this politics occur.

Question: What rnwill the New Yorker be like in 20 years?

David Remnick:rn To my mind, The New Yorker, whatever experiments occur, the most rninteresting experiments to occur, the ending of radical departure are inrn the writing. To me, that’s where the excitement is. Will we be on an rniPad? Absolutely. I hope we look great there and if people want to read rnus there fantastic. We’re working very hard to do that just as we’ve rnworked hard to have a Web site that’s worthy of the name.

My idearn of The New Yorker, as long as I’m there, is that we are not going to rnchange who we are, no matter what the delivery systems are, no matter rnwhat the means of reading us. We are about reading. We’re about long rnform journalism, analysis, humor, fiction, poetry, a sense of delight, arn sense of seriousness when it’s appropriate. If we start giving away rnthese core things because in the short term we somehow think, "Wow, you rnknow, actually three paragraph long pieces, the hell with George Packer rndoing 15,000 words on American politics, or Sy Hersh writing an rnextremely knotty piece about some aspect of intelligence or sending rnsomebody to Afghanistan three times to get the story, or unleashing rnDavid Grand for six months to get a death penalty piece, or what have rnyou." In other words what I think of as the core of The New Yorker. I’m rnnot here to get rid of fiction because I think that not 100 percent of rnthe people read it. I don’t care about that. I think this is a formula rnthat took a long, long time to develop and people want what we do. They rnmay want to read it on a different device soon enough and it’s not rncoming, it’s here.

Most of our readers at this point still thinkrn the best technology for reading it is on print. Those proportions will rninevitably change. How much they will change, I don’t know. I’m not a rnmedia fortuneteller, I’m not a, God forbid, a media consultant. I’m herern to edit the magazine and be as nimble as we can be in terms of this rnperiod of technological challenge and interest and it potentially will rnbring us more and more readers. But, I promise you that no matter what rnform you read it on, the intent is to be true to who we are.

Question:rn The Daily Beast’s traffic is sometimes double that of NewYorker.com. rnDoes that worry you?

David Remnick: Not at all, and rnyou know, I have a lot of respect for Tina and I reject any notion that rnsomehow Tina was completely out of the mainstream of what The New Yorker rnwanted to do. I think she brought a lot to it and a lot of the rnvisual aspect of The New Yorker is due to her innovation. She hired a rnlot of people that are still there, that are very important to The New rnYorker. But any website that’s built around news and what’s going on nowrn and five minutes later and aggregating and churning what’s going on in rnthe moment, is inevitably going to get higher traffic. Certainly, NYTimes.com is going to get a hell of a lot more traffic because rnit’s a daily newspaper that’s now not just daily, but is trying to keep rnup with the news in the moment. This is not what we’re equipped to do. rnThat’s not what we are built for.

I’ve been at a newspaper. I rnspent 10 years of my life at The Washington Post. I know what that’s rnabout. I’m not going to, at The Washington Post, have a fake AP,rn and we’re not going to spend all of our energies in aggregating from rnall over the Internet. We’re there to create the core long form rnjournalism that may get aggregated by somebody else. It may get chopped rninto little bits and talked about on other websites. I can live with rnthat easily. People want what we do and the more time goes by, and the rnmore time this technological revolution happens, there’s not more of rnthis. There’s not more depth, there’s not more deep analysis, in fact, rnthere’s arguably less of it because it’s expensive to do. It’s hard to rndo.

So, my hat’s off to a lot of websites. I read them, but thisrn is what I want to be doing at The New Yorker and that’s what my rncolleagues want to be doing.

Question: Who has rnsensibility to bring the New Yorker into the next era?

Davidrn Remnick: What’s interesting to me that as unnerving as any rntransformative period is, and there’s clearly, you can’t give young rnwriters, or journalists the advice that you used to 20 years ago. You rnknow, "Go to The Concord Monitor and work at a small newspaper and then rnfind your way to a larger one." That model, it’s almost irresponsible to rnthink that’s the singular piece of advice that a kind of middle-aged guyrn like me should give to somebody that’s 23. It’s obscenely wrong. In rnfact, the paths into journalism are now more various, they’re also more rnunnerving because where you get paid for it and paid decently for it arern tougher to find. There’s no doubt that in some ways, it’s easier to getrn in and easier to get noticed because the Internet is so democratic thatrn way, but to earn a living is getting more complicated. And I’m rndetermined to pay people and pay people well, talented people well. rnJust so long as we can sustain a model or even a shifting model so that rnwe can do that. That’s the idea, that’s the trick.

Do I see rnyoung people every bit as energetic and as intelligent, with the urge to rnexpress themselves? You bet I do. And even at some length, not everybodyrn is interested I making a life as a blogger, not everybody thinks the rnbest means of self-expression, or even information, or writing is to rnhave 40 disparate thoughts in the course of the day. Some of that is rninteresting; some I think is really not. There are lots of people that Irn talk to in their 20’s that are really interested in doing the very samern thing in terms of long form journalism that people twice their age and rnthree times their age have been doing for a long time.

It is rnthrilling when we have the chance to hire new writers who are young and rnwho are developing. I mean and getting better all the time and are rntotally obsessed with what they are doing. Somebody like Lauren Collins,rn or Ariel Levy, or Kelefa Sanneh at The New Yorker, who are relatively rnrecent hires. It’s just fantastic and it’s also really fantastic to see rnone piece be better than the last one, and the next piece be even better.rn I mean because they’re just in the zone of growing all the time. It’s rnfantastic. It’s really thrilling as an editor.
Recordedrn on April 9, 2010   rnrnrn