The Future of The New Yorker

Question: What \r\nwill the New Yorker be like in 20 years?

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

My \r\nidea\r\n of The New Yorker, as long as I’m there, is that we are not going to \r\nchange who we are, no matter what the delivery systems are, no matter \r\nwhat the means of reading us. We are about reading. We’re about long \r\nform journalism, analysis, humor, fiction, poetry, a sense of delight, a\r\n sense of seriousness when it’s appropriate. If we start giving away \r\nthese core things because in the short term we somehow think, "Wow, you \r\nknow, actually three paragraph long pieces, the hell with George Packer \r\ndoing 15,000 words on American politics, or Sy Hersh writing an \r\nextremely knotty piece about some aspect of intelligence or sending \r\nsomebody to Afghanistan three times to get the story, or unleashing \r\nDavid Grand for six months to get a death penalty piece, or what have \r\nyou." In other words what I think of as the core of The New Yorker. I’m \r\nnot here to get rid of fiction because I think that not 100 percent of \r\nthe people read it. I don’t care about that. I think this is a formula \r\nthat took a long, long time to develop and people want what we do. They \r\nmay want to read it on a different device soon enough and it’s not \r\ncoming, it’s here.

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

Question:\r\n The Daily Beast’s traffic is sometimes double that of NewYorker.com. \r\nDoes that worry you?

David Remnick: Not at all, and \r\nyou know, I have a lot of respect for Tina and I reject any notion that \r\nsomehow Tina was completely out of the mainstream of what The New Yorker\r\n \r\nwanted to do. I think she brought a lot to it and a lot of the \r\nvisual aspect of The New Yorker is due to her innovation. She hired a \r\nlot of people that are still there, that are very important to The New \r\nYorker. But any website that’s built around news and what’s going on now\r\n and five minutes later and aggregating and churning what’s going on in \r\nthe moment, is inevitably going to get higher traffic. Certainly, \r\nNYTimes.com is going to get a hell of a lot more traffic because \r\nit’s a daily newspaper that’s now not just daily, but is trying to keep \r\nup with the news in the moment. This is not what we’re equipped to do. \r\nThat’s not what we are built for.

I’ve been at a newspaper. I \r\nspent 10 years of my life at The Washington Post. I know what that’s \r\nabout. I’m not going to, at The Washington Post, have a fake AP,\r\n and we’re not going to spend all of our energies in aggregating from \r\nall over the Internet. We’re there to create the core long form \r\njournalism that may get aggregated by somebody else. It may get chopped \r\ninto little bits and talked about on other websites. I can live with \r\nthat easily. People want what we do and the more time goes by, and the \r\nmore time this technological revolution happens, there’s not more of \r\nthis. There’s not more depth, there’s not more deep analysis, in fact, \r\nthere’s arguably less of it because it’s expensive to do. It’s hard to \r\ndo.

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

Question: Who has \r\nsensibility to bring the New Yorker into the next era?

David\r\n\r\n Remnick: What’s interesting to me that as unnerving as any \r\ntransformative period is, and there’s clearly, you can’t give young \r\nwriters, or journalists the advice that you used to 20 years ago. You \r\nknow, "Go to The Concord Monitor and work at a small newspaper and then \r\nfind your way to a larger one." That model, it’s almost irresponsible to\r\n \r\nthink that’s the singular piece of advice that a kind of middle-aged guy\r\n like me should give to somebody that’s 23. It’s obscenely wrong. In \r\nfact, the paths into journalism are now more various, they’re also more \r\nunnerving because where you get paid for it and paid decently for it are\r\n tougher to find. There’s no doubt that in some ways, it’s easier to get\r\n in and easier to get noticed because the Internet is so democratic that\r\n way, but to earn a living is getting more complicated. And I’m \r\ndetermined to pay people and pay people well, talented people well. \r\nJust so long as we can sustain a model or even a shifting model so that \r\nwe can do that. That’s the idea, that’s the trick.

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

It is \r\nthrilling when we have the chance to hire new writers who are young and \r\nwho are developing. I mean and getting better all the time and are \r\ntotally obsessed with what they are doing. Somebody like Lauren Collins,\r\n or Ariel Levy, or Kelefa Sanneh at The New Yorker, who are relatively \r\nrecent hires. It’s just fantastic and it’s also really fantastic to see \r\none piece be better than the last one, and the next piece be even \r\nbetter.\r\n I mean because they’re just in the zone of growing all the time. It’s \r\nfantastic. It’s really thrilling as an editor.

Recorded\r\n\r\n on April 9, 2010  

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