Preventing errors from appearing in the magazine is not a simple process. For openers, you need to know that in addition to the basic reporting pieces, we also check “The Talk of the Town,” the critics, fiction, poetry, cartoons, art, captions, the table of contents, certain of the several-paragraph-long essays in the “Goings On” section. We also fact-check the contributors page, the cover wrap, the letters column, all the press releases, and a good deal of the recently mounted Web site.
To start checking a nonfiction piece, you begin by consulting the writer about how the piece was put together and using the writer’s sources as well as our own departmental sources. We then essentially take the piece apart and put it back together again. You make sure that the names and dates are right, but then if it is a John McPhee piece, you make sure that the USGS report that he read, he read correctly; or if it is a John le Carré piece, when he says his con man father ran for Parliament in 1950, you make sure that it wasn’t 1949 or 1951.
Or if we describe the basis on which the FDA approved or disapproved the medical tests that ImClone used for Erbitux, then you need to find out what the complexities of that whole situation were. And of course, this kind of thing has consequences, because if you get it wrong, it matters. We also work on complicated pieces such as the ones we’ve been running this fall about the Pentagon’s top-secret team that is trained to snatch nukes away from belligerent countries, or the piece about the Predator drone that had a clear shot at Mullah Omar, for better or for worse, and didn’t take the shot because the CENTCOM attorneys were not clear on the legality of that operation.
Back in 2002, New Yorker fact-checking director Peter Canby gave a lecture at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism about… fact-checking The New Yorker. The lecture is now a chapter in The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry, an anthology released this September from this and similar Columbia lectures given over the years.
Peter Canby, Columbia Journalism Review. Fact-checking at The New Yorker.
We don’t envy you because if we had a surefire one size fits all solution we’d be rolling in the big bucks. Instead, we run a Tumblr.
That said, it’s hard to offer advice without knowing anything about the magazine you’re going to interview for. Is it a general interest, fashion, music or sports title? Perhaps it’s super niche?
And that said, take a look at our Magazines Tag. Most of the posts are about magazines and their efforts to go digital but there are some that talk about print magazines making it in print.
For starters, try these:
Our Business Models Tag will be helpful too. It focuses on much more than magazines but should give you good ideas about what people are thinking about when it comes to sustainability and overall audience growth.
Hope this helps and good luck with the interview. — Michael
I have to tell you, it’s a spectacular relief. The pressures of the present moment in American journalism aren’t just economic; they’re intellectual, or rather anti-intellectual. I feel very confident in saying we’re not going to become quicker, fuzzier, faster. We’re reviving our old standards.
Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, to the Washington Post on Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes becoming the magazine’s publisher. Washington Post, Chris Hughes, once a new-media pioneer, makes bet on old media with New Republic.
The 28-year-old Hughes acquired TNR in early March. The influential magazine is set to “relaunch” — reboot might be a better word — this fall.
If you read through on the Washington Post article, you’ll find a profile of Hughes that takes you through his North Carolina youth, to prep school in New England, to Harvard where he was roommates with Mark Zuckerberg, to becoming to director of online organizing for the 2008 Obama campaign, to starting Jumo, to advocating for marriage equality with his boyfriend and on, and on.
Not bad for your first quarter century.