But why would a person write to Redbook extolling the great beauty and virtue of Eva Longoria? I have my own set of favorite actors… but I can barely imagine composing a sincere tweet about them, let alone writing multiple paragraphs and then sending them to a magazine for publication. That’s even more true in an era in which it’s so easy to do one’s gushing online, using less formal language. What compels an enthusiastic reader to let Entertainment Weekly know that this year’s fall TV preview was the best ever?
Ruth Graham, Meet the People Who Still Write Letters to the Editor, The Awl.
To answer the question, Ruth Graham interviews four writers of recent letters to the editor in People and Vanity Fair. While this is by no means representative of any kind of trend, three out of four of them are over the age of 60 and three out of four are or have been writers of some sort. Read about them here.
FJP: Here’s a personal thought on reading comments in print vs. online. I generally read about 4 magazines in print per month. I don’t subscribe to any, I just pick up what looks interesting at the train station when I’m visiting my folks. I always stop and read the letters section, both the letter from the editor and the letters to the editor. I do this because when reading in print, I feel I need to orient myself and get a grip on the identity of the publication in hand. It feels like a respectful thing to do. I feel compelled to perform this act of respect because holding an entire issue of a magazine in your hands makes you feel the weight of the effort that went into it. Perhaps it makes no sense, but I want to reciprocate.
The content of these letters to the editor are hardly ever more insightful or intriguing that comments people leave online. Yet because they get an entire printed page, I spend a few extra seconds pondering them than I would something online. And particularly because I’m a child of the age of millennial voyeurism, it’s a strange feeling to read letters to the editor in print and not get to internet stalk the people who wrote them. So, this Awl piece is a fun read. And something I’ve always been curious about. —Jihii
Somewhat related: A NY Times Magazine piece from last weekend on the history, future and quality of comments.
We decided to credit editors because they live and breath the stories they work on, and I felt that some kind of recognition was due. It’s really as simple as that. The kind of work they do varies widely from story to story, it’s very difficult to generalize. What makes our editors so good is they know how to do a light line editing, when that’s all that’s required, and they know how to wrestle something to the ground, when that’s what’s required. Usually, it’s somewhere in between.
Hugo Lindgren, Editor, New York Times Magazine. Reddit. I’m Hugo Lindgren, editor of the New York Times magazine.
Hugo Lindgren spent time on Reddit’s IAmA board yesterday to answer questions about his career, magazines and journalism. Here, he’s talking about giving editors byline credits in the magazine.
His thoughts are great on other topics too, especially for those looking to get into magazines.
My head is still throbbing.
Over at Fuel Your Writing, Eric Kuentz takes Ernest Hemingway’s “write drunk; edit sober” edict to heart and sacrifices himself to a boozy experiment: where will a case of beer, a bottle of Chianti and some brandy bring his writing.
I’m sitting on a couch at my brother’s house outside Chicago, nursing a broken foot with some pain killers, and watching a great series of Final Cut X tutorial videos.
As a bonus, the narrator sounds like Bruce from Family Guy. It might be the pain killers, but he makes me giggle…
The bigger issue is that journalists are completely innumerate. I can count on one hand the number of journalists who have any understanding of mathematics.
Not to totally excuse David Brooks here, but his editors share the blame here. A good editor is a reader advocate, and should be adding up and questioning these figures during the editing process.
This is a particular problem with opinion pieces; we’ve all read columns that are chock full of outrageous, untrue bullshit. Editors who let this stuff through typically do it with the excuse that “this is an opinion piece.” True, but facts aren’t a matter of opinion, and a publication has abdicated its role if it allows its opinion writers to publish things that are simply wrong.
You are not writing to impress the scientist you have just interviewed, nor the professor who got you through your degree, nor the editor who foolishly turned you down, or the rather dishy person you just met at a party and told you were a writer. Or even your mother. You are writing to impress someone hanging from a strap in the tube between Parson’s Green and Putney, who will stop reading in a fifth of a second, given a chance.
Pictures of people about to die, less final than images of death, capture a particularly powerful moment in the middle of a sequence of action—a child about to keel over from starvation, a woman about to be engulfed by a mudslide, a dirigible about to explode—and freeze it for repeated display and engagement. Focusing on the human anguish of people facing death, they replay this moment in news and beyond without necessarily showing visual evidence that the people in fact died. Viewers thus can and do go in many directions with an image’s interpretation—refuting death, debating its particulars, providing multiple and often erroneous contexts for its understanding.
Pictures of people about to die, less graphic than pictures of corpses and body parts, also play on different parts of a viewer’s psyche. Where images of dead bodies often push viewers away, creating a sense of distance and objectification, images of impending death do the opposite: They often draw viewers in, fostering engagement, creating empathy and subjective involvement, inviting debate.