New Yorker editor tells of distinct career path
In an age where print magazines are increasingly giving way to online journalism, The New Yorker is more important than ever, editor-in-chief David Remnick '81 told a packed audience of senior citizens, faculty members and students in McCosh 10 yesterday night.
"All in all, the form [of The New Yorker] is weird, crazy, free-form, but more important in our time," he said, noting that the magazine currently boasts a million subscribers.
Remnick, a Pulitzer Prize winner, also reflected on his time at the University and discussed topics ranging from the state of American and Russian affairs to managing The New Yorker. During the event, formatted as an hour-long discussion with English professor Michael Wood, Remnick answered questions about his experiences as a University student and his path to The New Yorker.
At Princeton, he said, he learned to look at books in a whole new way. "You come to a university in part to learn how to read," he said. "That's what I took away from it — learning how to read seriously ... It was the best thing you could do as a 19-year-old. It was the richest experience I've ever achieved."
As an undergraduate, Remnick was a comparative literature major, part of the University Press Club and founder of the Nassau Weekly.
After graduating from the University, Remnick wrote for various publications, eventually becoming a Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post. His stint there included an interview with then-Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev. He later moved on to The New Yorker as a writer.
"Going to write for The New Yorker was a dream," he said.
Remnick noted that his path was different from the one most Princeton students take.
"Let's face it," he said. "This is a rich school. There are rich kids at it. The idea of buying a loft and setting oneself up as a novelist had not occurred to me."
Journalism, he added, was a way to get out of the house and explore the world. Remnick satisfied his passion for traveling even before graduating from Princeton by participating in Princeton-in-Asia, through which he taught English at a university in Japan. "They would send you to Japan or the military dictatorship of your choice," he said.
Humorous quips punctuated Remnick's discussion with Wood — in one exchange, Wood asked him if he read junk, to which he replied that he watched too much television and was a moviegoer. "It's the most restful thing I do," he said. "Oh, dear god. I'm sure it replaces sex." He then correctly predicted that the statement would be quoted in The Daily Princetonian.
Audience members asked him a variety of questions, including his opinion on how the internet would affect The New Yorker and how the magazine plans to respond to the nationwide shift from print to online journalism.
Though The New Yorker was relatively slow to adapt to the internet, Remnick noted that some magazines that rushed to pour all of their resources into the web met with failure.
He went on to emphasize the importance of his magazine, especially in an age when other publications are facing what he described as a "genre problem" — trying to expand their content and adopt features previously identified with other publications. For example, he said, publications like Newsweek are increasingly becoming lifestyle magazines, while daily newspapers are publishing longer, more in-depth stories like those that appear in The New Yorker.
He added that some of the magazine's unique features, such as its famous cartoon caption contests, have drawn a wide audience. At a cocktail party, he recalled, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained to him that he had submitted six captions but none had been selected.
Recalling his rise to his current post, Remnick said he was "anointed by mistake." One weekend, he volunteered to write a memo on how to improve the magazine, and since the editor-in-chief position was empty at the time, his suggestions launched him into the job.
The event was sponsored by the Walter E. Edge Lecture fund.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.