Archive for June, 2019

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A Tribute To My Lebanese Professor And A Cornerstone Of The Lebanese Press Mr. Walid Awad,

June 29, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Tribute

Mr. Walid Awad

Lebanon lost on Saturday June 29 a cornerstone of the Lebanese press Mr. Walid Awad. Mr. Walid, as we used to call him, was my journalism professor at The Lebanese University back in 1977, in addition to being a very well respected editor and later owner of a Lebanese newsweekly Al-Afkar, Mr. Walid brought the newsroom to the classroom and vice versa. From him, I learned the art of the interview, and with him I practiced and enhanced my journalism skills.

Sitting on the right of Mr. Walid Awad, yours truly, a senior in college, interviewing the former president of Lebanon Charles Helo.

In the second issue of “The Journalist” magazine that he helped us launch in our senior year, Mr. Walid took the class to interview the former president of Lebanon, Charles Helo. Here is a translation of the lede of the interview that I wrote: “Right before the former president Charles Helo sat down on his classical eastern coach, he said with a big smile, ‘When I read my interview in Al-Hawadeth magazine, I felt my words were published accurately as I said them. Mr. Walid Awad was able to capture every exciting thing that I said without saying any exciting things I did not say, as is the case with some. Honesty in covering the news is the best means to success in journalism. This, my children, is my first commandment to you.”

Thank you Mr. Walid Awad for a job well done and may your soul Rest In Peace. You will be missed.

Issues one and two of The Journalist.

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Sweet Jane Magazine: Empowering Women Through Cannabis & Removing The Stigma Of Its Use – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Katy Ibsen, Publisher & Editor…

June 25, 2019

“I’m an optimist no matter what. I think people are overwhelmed with the constant connectivity that we have today. So even from a basic city, regional magazine in a community of 80,000 to a national print magazine about cannabis and women, it’s an experience that allows you to step away from technology. What’s old is new again sometimes, and I believe we’re seeing a resurgence of print in many ways because people feel like it’s a different experience that they’re not getting elsewhere.” Katy Ibsen…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

In today’s magazine marketplace there is a wide variety of titles focusing on the still controversial world of the cannabis industry. From cooking with it to the best way to grow it, the highly-touted green herb has made a wide footprint in the printed space. But Sweet Jane, a new magazine that is all about cannabis, yet zeroes in on women and mothers in particular, strives to remove the stigma that is still attached to smoking, eating, or using the plant in general, making it clear that health and wellbeing is the focal point for the title.

Katy Ibsen is the publisher and editor of the magazine and the driving force behind the title’s mission. Katy believes that cannabis can and should be used by women and mothers for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Sharing the benefits of the plant is what Katy says is the vital message of Sweet Jane.

I spoke with Katy recently and she talked about the fact that our society seems to have no problem with mothers drinking wine for relaxation, yet smoking a joint would automatically make that same mother a bad parent in many social sets. The stigma attached to cannabis is very real and Katy says that Sweet Jane strives to bring greater understanding and acceptance of the plant to people across the country.

It was a very eye-opening conversation and deeply honest, and Mr. Magazine™ thoroughly enjoyed it. And I hope that you do as well. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Katy Ibsen, publisher and editor, Sweet Jane magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the concept of Sweet Jane: Sweet Jane is a publication that empowers women through cannabis. As legalization, both medical and adult use, continues to occur across the country and individuals begin to experiment, I really felt like there was a lack of education, and a need for any sort of product, whether that be a magazine or a website, in my opinion, that really helps people feel comfortable approaching cannabis and to not feel stigmatized, and to have somewhere they could ask the right questions, even if they felt taboo. So, we wanted to create a magazine that helped people answer those questions and learn more at their own pace and in their own comfortable space.

On why she felt that she needed a print publication in this digital age: Well for one I love print; my background is in print publishing. I worked with city, regionals and tourism publications for most of my career. I think once you start publishing print, it’s hard to ever walk away from it. But the cannabis industry is kind of unique, where a lot of my research into how companies are able to approach their consumers showed that the online aspect was becoming more and more difficult. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug in the Federal Government’s eyes, so because of that platforms like Facebook and Google, Instagram and Twitter have limitations of drug-related content. For example, the National Cannabis Industry Association had indicated that they even struggled publishing certain lobbying events because it’s related to cannabis and marijuana.

 On why she thinks cannabis magazines that elevate women are now becoming so prominent: I think that what we’re seeing is females happen to be one of the larger market segments who are consuming cannabis. Some have even gone as far to say that soccer moms are the largest demographic right behind baby boomers. So, right away we know that if a publication is going to be particularly successful, it’s probably going to want to appeal to women. And I think in a non-direct way people are not as comfortable accepting that a woman or a mother would consume cannabis for either recreational purposes or for anxiety or depression, pain or inflammation. There still seems to be a struggle accepting that. And I have many friends across the country who have indicated that and wanted to see something that helps them feel more comfortable talking about it.

On the genesis of the name, Sweet Jane: Originally it was a song by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, which they covered in the ‘70s. And it’s been in my rotation for a while. I wish that I could tell you that there was a little bit more inspiration behind it, but it really came from the song. And the song’s lyrics actually play a part because as parents and as women we’re trying to make ends meet. The Jane hook is obviously “Mary Jane,” but the Sweet Jane came from the song and its lyrics. But in my opinion the name provided a softness for it to be a feminine magazine. We are talking to women and to mothers.

On what “high” she hopes Sweet Jane will have reached in a year: I think greater acceptance of female and parent use of cannabis. We’re seeing more and more of the conversation about the debate of what’s more appropriate, a mother drinking a lot of wine and thinking that’s okay, that it’s very much a “Mommy Juice” or “Mommy Wine” culture and it is more accepted in our society. But if you see a mother smoke a joint, she’s a bad mom, potentially risking the wellbeing of her child. And that all stems from ignorance.

On what she believes the future of print is: I’m an optimist no matter what. I think people are overwhelmed with the constant connectivity that we have today. So, even from a basic city, regional magazine in a community of 80,000 to a national print magazine about cannabis and women, it’s an experience that allows you to step away from technology. What’s old is new again sometimes, and I believe we’re seeing a resurgence of print in many ways because people feel like it’s a different experience that they’re not getting elsewhere.

On how she decided on $5.99 for a cover price: It goes back to what you asked earlier: what do we want to achieve in five years. And that’s greater acceptance of the female and mother use of cannabis for their own wellbeing. So if I price my magazine at a price point where maybe a middle or lower income mother can’t afford it, then I’m not really achieving that mission. The access to it is greater if I have a manageable cover price that a woman can say, I can buy this magazine because all of this information is relevant to me and I can keep this magazine and reference it many times for a small price of $5.99, which is still a significant price for a lot of people. So, we wanted to make sure that it was as accessible as possible.

On what her plans are for the frequency: I’ve always felt that a four times per year frequency is good. Again, for justification of the reasons, the connectivity, people making time for a print product; all of that. I think publishing more than that can be costly and maybe not necessary. Currently we’re twice a year for 2019/2020. We’re hoping to increase our frequency to four times a year in 2021. We’re underwritten by advertising and our newsstand and cover price sales. We’ve built a very lean business model financially to continue the project through 2020 in hopes that we will increase our advertising enough to move to four times per year.

On anything she’d like to add: The other thing that I think is just really fascinating about the cannabis industry is that it has more opportunities for women. And states that don’t have any form of legalization yet aren’t seeing that, but I think just in general, a lot of the innovation that comes with cannabis is advancing a lot of industries, not just print publications. As we continue to see these magazines pop up and we’re very proud to be one of them, across the board greater acceptance of cannabis might actually become a reality. Putting our necks out there, Kitchen Toke, MJ, and many others that are also in the legacy of High Tines, my hope is that we are a small step toward greater acceptance and greater legalization. And I’m using my journalism background to do that.

On the biggest misconception people have about her: I lost my publishing job two years ago to take a sabbatical and spend time with my husband and start a family. And I knew at some point I would start a new project. Honestly, I don’t think that I would be pursuing a print publication if it weren’t in cannabis because of the opportunity that the print platform provides for the industry and for its consumers. And I think trying to explain that to people was challenging at times.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: To be completely clear, I live in a prohibition state, so I don’t have legal access to cannabis. So while I have experienced cannabis in my life and I currently use CBD for wellness, you wouldn’t catch me smoking a joint because I legally cannot. But you would catch me either running with my daughter  or enjoying a glass wine, because I still do that with my husband. And listening to some music, watching her play and grow. My daughter will be one soon. We laugh that I had a baby in a year and I had a magazine in a year. (Laughs) I only had one birth, but it feels like two. So, when I get the chance to just sit down and catch my breath, I take full advantage of that with my family.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m building a business and Sweet Jane is the largest piece of that pie. But I still service a lot of publishing clients; I do a lot of contract editing and publishing consulting and so, if anything, what keeps me up at night is how to get it all done. I am the primary child-caregiver in my house, so I balance everything that I do while raising my daughter. And it’s hard at times and things fall through the cracks, but I think what’s keeping me up at night is what’s the next priority and how do we accomplish that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Katy Ibsen, publisher and editor, Sweet Jane magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the concept of Sweet Jane.

Katy Ibsen: Sweet Jane is a publication that empowers women through cannabis. As legalization, both medical and adult use, continues to occur across the country and individuals begin to experiment, I really felt like there was a lack of education, and a need for any sort of product, whether that be a magazine or a website, in my opinion, that really helps people feel comfortable approaching cannabis and to not feel stigmatized, and to have somewhere they could ask the right questions, even if they felt taboo. So, we wanted to create a magazine that helped people answer those questions and learn more at their own pace and in their own comfortable space.

Cannabis comes with a lot of taboo stuff. And because of that I think we find that people aren’t comfortable talking about it; they’re not comfortable searching certain terms or asking other people about it, especially if they happen to live in a prohibition state. And by creating a magazine, a print magazine, that was a way that we could help people get that information and consume it however they wanted to.

Samir Husni: Why did you feel that you needed a printed edition in this digital age?

Katy Ibsen: Well for one I love print; my background is in print publishing. I worked with city, regionals and tourism publications for most of my career. I think once you start publishing print, it’s hard to ever walk away from it. But the cannabis industry is kind of unique, where a lot of my research into how companies are able to approach their consumers showed that the online aspect was becoming more and more difficult. Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug in the Federal Government’s eyes, so because of that platforms like Facebook and Google, Instagram and Twitter have limitations of drug-related content. For example, the National Cannabis Industry Association had indicated that they even struggled publishing certain lobbying events because it’s related to cannabis and marijuana.

But because of that there’s actually a little bit of  a print resurgence in the cannabis industry because they are limited in digital ways to reach consumers. It kind of created a good opportunity to actually use print.

Samir Husni: Suddenly, it went from one magazine, such as High Times, to a host of magazines about cannabis. At last count, I was up to 22 different titles. Why do you think cannabis magazines that elevate women are now becoming so prominent? We have had MJ Lifestyle, which elevates the feminine voice in cannabis and its culture; we have had Broccoli: Kitchen Toke; is that a unique selling feature of the magazine, aiming at cannabis and women? Or what’s the difference between cannabis and “people” and cannabis and “women?”

Katy Ibsen: That’s a great question and all of those publications that you named are phenomenal and founded by women. I think that what we’re seeing is females happen to be one of the larger market segments who are consuming cannabis. Some have even gone as far to say that soccer moms are the largest demographic right behind baby boomers. So, right away we know that if a publication is going to be particularly successful, it’s probably going to want to appeal to women.

And I think in a non-direct way people are not as comfortable accepting that a woman or a mother would consume cannabis for either recreational purposes or for anxiety or depression, pain or inflammation. There still seems to be a struggle accepting that. And I have many friends across the country who have indicated that and wanted to see something that helps them feel more comfortable talking about it.

Broccoli, Kitchen Toke, MJ Lifestyle are all perfect examples of advancing that conversation, but Sweet Jane’s differentiation is that we are focusing on the parenting/mother aspect of it, as well as the educational aspect. So, while we certainly profile women who are doing unique things, or things that are happening in the industry, we’re also trying to provide a healthy dose of really basic education that has been vetted and is from professionals who can help new cannabis users learn how to incorporate cannabis into their lives should they choose to.

And I think that’s something that really gets overlooked, especially as the legalization continues to happen and is even happening in the Midwest. Illinois just went recreational, Missouri has Amendment 2, which is the implementation of their medical program, Oklahoma went medical a year ago. And so you have a lot of Midwesterners, and especially, we’ll just say suburban housewives, who are curious, but don’t know what to do to start to incorporate it or even research or understand it.  And as those states start legalization, their staffs and individuals that are working in dispensaries will also have a learning curve about how they talk to consumers about cannabis.

We’re hoping to be a support and an intersect there to help women feel comfortable going into that dispensary in the Midwest or wherever the next legal state is going to be and asking the right questions to make sure they get the right product to have the best cannabis experience for whatever they’re wanting to use it for.

Samir Husni: And when you said the magazine provides a “healthy dose,” there’s no pun intended, right? (Laughs)

Katy Ibsen: (Laughs too) No pun intended. It seems basic, but some women would probably prefer to use a vape pen or an edible, but those are two very different experiences. And so we want to help them understand what those experiences are before they just blindly try it and have a really poor experience and decide that cannabis isn’t right for them or that plant medicine isn’t something that they believe will help them.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of the name, Sweet Jane.

Katy Ibsen: Originally it was a song by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, which they covered in the ‘70s. And it’s been in my rotation for a while. I wish that I could tell you that there was a little bit more inspiration behind it, but it really came from the song. And the song’s lyrics actually play a part because as parents and as women we’re trying to make ends meet. The Jane hook is obviously “Mary Jane,” but the Sweet Jane came from the song and its lyrics. But in my opinion the name provided a softness for it to be a feminine magazine. We are talking to women and to mothers.

But anybody who knows Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground is attracted to the name. We have had many compliments on it from middle-aged men. (Laughs) So, saying it’s specific to just women maybe isn’t the case, it’s specific to a couple different spaces. It works because ultimately, while we’re appealing to women, a lot of the content that we’re incorporating is gender neutral. Everybody needs to know the difference between flowers, concentrates, vaporizers and edibles. It’s not necessarily specific to women, albeit women may have a different reaction than men. But the information is basic in its form for all genders.

Samir Husni: If I ask you to put your futuristic hat on for a moment and you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me Sweet Jane has accomplished in that year? What “high” will Sweet Jane have reached a year from now?

Katy Ibsen: I think greater acceptance of female and parent use of cannabis. We’re seeing more and more of the conversation about the debate of what’s more appropriate, a mother drinking a lot of wine and thinking that’s okay, that it’s very much a “Mommy Juice” or “Mommy Wine” culture and it is more accepted in our society. But if you see a mother smoke a joint, she’s a bad mom, potentially risking the wellbeing of her child. And that all stems from ignorance.

If we at Sweet Jane, in the company of Kitchen Toke, Broccoli and MJ Lifestyle can show that cannabis is actually a very safe alternative, it’s a healthy alternative with less consequences than drinking. And I think the research is coming out more and more to prove that. So if we can help achieve conversations and greater acceptance then I think we’re on a path to success five years from now.

Samir Husni: You mentioned earlier that because of the subject matter you feel there is a resurgence for print with cannabis-related topics, but what do you think the future of print is?

Katy Ibsen: I’m an optimist no matter what. I think people are overwhelmed with the constant connectivity that we have today. So even from a basic city, regional magazine in a community of 80,000 to a national print magazine about cannabis and women, it’s an experience that allows you to step away from technology. What’s old is new again sometimes, and I believe we’re seeing a resurgence of print in many ways because people feel like it’s a different experience that they’re not getting elsewhere.

And there are examples of other individuals, entrepreneurs or publishers seeing a need for somebody to want to be involved in this niche and be engaged with it in this form versus a digital form. And with supporters like Barnes & Noble who are taking a risk on these publications and giving them an outlet to be consumed, there’s potential for it to keep growing. If we put content in our publication that people can’t find anywhere else then there’s a reason for people to seek out our print product. So, I think there’s a future.

Samir Husni: When I look at the cover price of all of your competitors, you’re at $5.99 and they’re at $18 and $20 an issue. How did you reach the decision to charge $5.99 per issue?

Katy Ibsen: Well, it goes back to what you asked earlier: what do we want to achieve in five years. And that’s greater acceptance of the female and mother use of cannabis for their own wellbeing. So if I price my magazine at a price point where maybe a middle or lower income mother can’t afford it, then I’m not really achieving that mission. The access to it is greater if I have a manageable cover price that a woman can say, I can buy this magazine because all of this information is relevant to me and I can keep this magazine and reference it many times for a small price of $5.99, which is still a significant price for a lot of people. So, we wanted to make sure that it was as accessible as possible.

Samir Husni: Your next issue is coming out in November. Are you starting as a quarterly or plans to move to six times per year? What are your plans for the frequency?

Katy Ibsen: I’ve always felt that a four times per year frequency is good. Again, for justification of the reasons, the connectivity, people making time for a print product; all of that. I think publishing more than that can be costly and maybe not necessary. Currently we’re twice a year for 2019/2020. We’re hoping to increase our frequency to four times a year in 2021. We’re underwritten by advertising and our newsstand and cover price sales. We’ve built a very lean business model financially to continue the project through 2020 in hopes that we will increase our advertising enough to move to four times per year.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Katy Ibsen: The other thing that I think is just really fascinating about the cannabis industry is that it has more opportunities for women. And states that don’t have any form of legalization yet aren’t seeing that, but I think just in general, a lot of the innovation that comes with cannabis is advancing a lot of industries, not just print publications. As we continue to see these magazines pop up and we’re very proud to be one of them, across the board greater acceptance of cannabis might actually become a reality. Putting our necks out there, Kitchen Toke, MJ, and many others that are also in the legacy of High Tines, my hope is that we are a small step toward greater acceptance and greater legalization. And I’m using my journalism background to do that.

Samir Husni: When you told people you were doing this, that you were launching this magazine, what was the biggest misconception they had about you?

Katy Ibsen: That’s a great question. I lost my publishing job two years ago to take a sabbatical and spend time with my husband and start a family. And I knew at some point I would start a new project. Honestly, I don’t think that I would be pursuing a print publication if it weren’t in cannabis because of the opportunity that the print platform provides for the industry and for its consumers. And I think trying to explain that to people was challenging at times.

And not necessarily because of their ignorance, but because they would look at me like, why would you do a print magazine? Aren’t those dying? (Laughs) Then they’d say, what are you going to write about with cannabis? There’s not a whole lot to it, but they’d come to find that there’s a great deal to it. And if we don’t educate the ignorance continues. Or if we don’t use our voice to help with criminal justice reform, then legalization continues to create a lot of social injustices.

So, we had, and my family had, an opportunity to shift that conversation. And I think we’re seeing it happen more and more and now people see it. Those who have loved the magazine since it’s been out have given us great feedback and they’ve been extremely complimentary.

My graphic designer and I laughed a little bit that we were some craft between The New Yorker and Real Simple, because we felt that the magazine was wordy, but it was a lot of useful, do-it-yourself information for cannabis. And people want to use cannabis. And the biggest compliment that people keeping saying is how beautiful the magazine is. (Laughs) We’re happy we achieved that, but our mission was ultimately that they walk away with more power based on the knowledge they learned from it. It’s a good bonus that they think it’s beautiful as well.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Smoking a joint; having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Katy Ibsen: To be completely clear, I live in a prohibition state, so I don’t have legal access to cannabis. So while I have experienced cannabis in my life and I currently use CBD for wellness, you wouldn’t catch me smoking a joint because I legally cannot. But you would catch me either running with my daughter  or enjoying a glass wine, because I still do that with my husband. And listening to some music, watching her play and grow. My daughter will be one soon. We laugh that I had a baby in a year and I had a magazine in a year. (Laughs) I only had one birth, but it feels like two. So, when I get the chance to just sit down and catch my breath, I take full advantage of that with my family.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Katy Ibsen: (Laughs) I’m building a business and Sweet Jane is the largest piece of that pie. But I still service a lot of publishing clients; I do a lot of contract editing and publishing consulting and so, if anything, what keeps me up at night is how to get it all done. I am the primary child-caregiver in my house, so I balance everything that I do while raising my daughter. And it’s hard at times and things fall through the cracks, but I think what’s keeping me up at night is what’s the next priority and how do we accomplish that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Norman Cousins On The Future Of Print & The Role Of Magazines, Circa 1972… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 22, 2019

“Print will continue to be a primary force in the life of the mind”…Norman Cousins

Happy birthday Mr. Cousins.

Norman Cousins was born June 24, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey and he died in 1990. He was a longtime editor of the Saturday Review, global peacemaker, receiver of hundreds of awards including the UN Peace Medal and nearly 50 honorary doctorate degrees.

In 1972, Cousins resigned from Saturday Review and founded World Magazine, which called itself “a review of ideas, the arts and the human condition.”

In this Blast From the Past, read about the future of print and the role of magazines circa 1972. Once again, there is nothing new under the sun. The wisdom of 1972 still rings true today. Please enjoy this excerpt from literary giant, Norman Cousins, introducing his new magazine. And Mr. Magazine™ would love to hear your comments…

World 7/4/72

A REVIEW OF IDEAS, THE ARTS AND THE HUMAN CONDITION

Volume 1, Number 1.

This first issue of World Magazine is dedicated to the future of print, and to our colleagues on other magazines, newspapers, and books. We are confident that print will not only endure but will continue to be a primary force in the life of the mind. Nothing yet invented meets the intellectual needs of the human brain so fully as print. The ability of the mind to convert little markings on paper into meaning is one of the ways civilization receives its basic energy.

What is most important about a new magazine is not how it came to be but what it seeks to become. World seeks to become a magazine on the human situation. In philosophy, editorial content, and direction, it seeks to become a journal of creative world thought and activity.

The compression of the whole of humanity into a single geographic arena is the single event of the contemporary era. The central question of that arena is whether the world will become a community or a wasteland, a single habitat or a single battlefield. More and more, the choice for the world’s people is between becoming world warriors or world citizens.

Perhaps the starkest discovery of our time is that our planet is not indestructible and that its ability to sustain life is not limitless. For the first time in history, therefore, the physical condition of the planet Earth forces itself upon human intelligence. And the management of the earth for the human good now becomes not just a philosophical abstraction but an operational necessity.

For many centuries, people have known that life on this planet is possible only because millions upon millions of factors are in precise and delicate balance. Never before have those vital balances been in jeopardy. Life is now imperiled not because of any failure of the cosmic design but because of human intervention.

All at once a new and larger kind of wisdom is needed to keep humankind from becoming inimical to its own survival. Wisdom that can deal with basic causes of breakdowns between the national aggregations. Wisdom that can halt the poisoning of the natural environment and that can monitor the world’s airshed and waters. Wisdom that can establish a balance between resources and needs. Wisdom that can apply technology to the upgrading of the whole f human society. And, finally, wisdom that can help men regain their essential trust in one another, and restore their sensitivities to life. It is folly to expect that genuine creativity-whether in the individual or society-can exist in the absence of highly developed sensitivities.

World Magazine, therefore, is devoted to ideas and the arts. One may make a distinction between the two, but one cannot separate the two. Both are part of the same creative process. Survival is impossible without ideas, but the arts give sense and excitement to survival.

The ultimate adventure on earth is the adventure of ideas. Word Magazine would like to be part of that adventure. The times favor new ideas. Old dogmas and ideologies are losing their power to inspire or terrify. They are no longer prime sources of intellectual energy and have become instead traditional enduring symbols, objects of generalized attachments and loyalties. Compartmentalized man is giving away to World Man. The banner commanding the greatest attention has human unity stamped upon it…

…It is apparent not just from the authorship of the various columns and departments but from the names on the masthead that most of the editors and contributors share a common editorial background. Yet it is equally clear that they come together now in a new and different context. World Magazine is proud of its origins and especially of whatever measure of continuity it may be able to give to a certain tradition in publishing. We are excited by the prospect of publishing a magazine with a world purpose.

The editors do not regard this issue as a definitive expression of their ideas about World. For a new magazine is not born fully formed. It has to evolve over a period of time. It is shaped in creative interaction with readers. Its most useful mistakes are made in the open. Our hope is that those mistakes will not be beyond fruitful correction, and that they will not obscure our main aim, which is to publish a magazine that people will read and respect. NC


Editor’s Note: You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

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Don D. Guttenplan, Editor of The Nation to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Print Does Things That You Can’t Do Online” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

June 19, 2019

“I feel that there is a reflectivity; there’s a chance to persuade; there’s a chance to sit with an idea that print gives you that you don’t get anywhere else. But I have to say that I assigned myself the task, and because I’ve been a reporter for 40 years, the way I think about things is to write about them and report them, so I’m in the middle of, I haven’t finished writing a story about the future of print. My tentative findings though is that print is durable and it’s going to be around for a long time.” Don Guttenplan (On what he feels the role of the print edition of The Nation plays today)….

As the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, The Nation covers progressive political and cultural news, opinion, and analysis. Just recently the magazine named journalist and author Don D. Guttenplan as its editor. Don has a long and robust history with The Nation, having been its London correspondent, not to mention writing the publication’s biography up to the present: “The Nation. A Biography” (The First 150 years). So I think it’s safe to say the man knows a thing or two about his work environment.

I spoke with Don recently and we talked about this legacy publication that according to him has always been a beacon and a voice for progressive ideas. So, bringing his deep sense of The Nation’s history and its democratic politics with him as he moves into his New York office and the magazine’s editor’s chair, Don is ready to go to work.

And his first self-assigned task has been to think about print, the relation of print, and what The Nation is doing in print, because he has often felt that the magazine hadn’t really fully thought that through. Don feels there is a reflectivity with print, a chance to persuade; a chance to sit with an idea that print gives you that you don’t get anywhere else. Needless to say,  Mr. Magazine™ would wholeheartedly agree.

Reaching true audience potential with The Nation’s print component, while enjoying a vibrant and alive web presence are two things that are on Don’s radar, as well as consistently bringing a sensibility and an awareness of the role that The Nation plays in the world of political journalism that nobody else plays.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Don D. Guttenplan, editor of The Nation as he talks about his passion for politics and shares his wealth of knowledge on the subject.

But first the sound bites:

On his relationship with Memphis, Tenn.: My relationship with Memphis is that my parents lived there when I was in high school, so I went to high school there. My father was an itinerant social worker, so he traveled around a lot. When I lived in Memphis I couldn’t wait to leave. I skipped years and scrambled to escape early and went to New York, which was the center of the universe to me then. But I realized fairly soon, first of all that I had been lucky and I had really gotten an excellent education from my public high school in Memphis, Tenn.

On his reaction when he was offered the job of editor of The Nation: I wasn’t expecting him (Trump) to win the election. I was as surprised and devastated as probably anybody else. But I woke up the next morning in my hotel room, because by the time they called the election it was two-something in the morning and I was too tired to feel safe driving down to New York City, so I just checked into a hotel, and I got up and I wrote an editorial which became The Nation’s lead editorial the next day. And the last line of it was: “Welcome to the Fight.” So, I suppose that’s how I felt. That’s what went through my mind when Katrina asked would I take over The Nation. If I’m welcoming other people to the fight, this is really not something that I can duck. To have this platform at this time in our country’s history and to have a platform with the lineage and the leverage of The Nation is both an incredible opportunity and also a heavy responsibility, which does weigh on me and which I take seriously.

On what role he thinks the print edition of The Nation plays with all of the different platforms it exists upon now: That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? When Katrina offered me the job and it became clear that I was going to accept it and we were going to find a way to make this happen, because I was in England at the time, the first task that I set myself was to think about print, the relation of print, and what The Nation is doing in print, because I’d often felt and said that we hadn’t really fully thought that through. We’d entered all of these other platforms and we’re enthusiastic on them and have a great website and we have millions of unique readers, so the magazine’s reach and voice is extensive and that’s terrific, but there were some people who felt that print was over and I definitely didn’t feel that. And not just because I love print. My daughter loves print so much that works as a typesetter, so we’re a print-focused family in many ways.

On what he will bring to The Nation’s extensive legacy: I’m glad you mentioned the extensive legacy because, of course, one of the things that I bring to The Nation and I think one of the reasons that Katrina asked me to do this is because I have a deeper sense of The Nation’s history perhaps than anyone since I wrote it. I wrote the book The Nation: A Biography in 2015 for the magazine’s 150th. So I’m quite aware of both the failings and the achievements of my 15 successors in this chair as editor. And I’m quite aware of what The Nation has been over time. And one of the things that has been over time is a voice for progressive ideas, for ideas that move toward a vision of justice, to try and bend the arc of the universe toward justice, whether it was 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves, literacy training for freed slaves, or whether it was workers’ rights. And one of the earlier editors of The  Nation was one of the founders of the NAACP. So The Nation has been a voice for progress for a long time. And I think having an awareness of that is important.

On how important he feels journalism is to the future of our country: I don’t think you can have a democracy without a functioning press. I think it’s absolutely crucial and we are actually blessed in America with a really good press, particularly with what were our legacy print publications, such as The New York Times, for example. It’s funny because I worked at the Village Voice for three years and when I worked there, The New York Times was our enemy. Every day we would roll our eyes at some horrible sell-out, commercial, terrible headline or a failure to understand the true politics behind some event. And it’s not that I disavow any of that, but on the other hand I feel we are so lucky in America to have a good daily journal that is a good source of daily news, daily journalism, where the reporters go deep and you can often, not always, but often, you can believe what they print.

On which of his many journalistic skills: writing, editing, reporting, is dearest to his heart: I think they all shape each other. “American Radical,” which is my biography of I. F. Stone , The Nation’s long-time Washington correspondent, and then founder of I. F. Stone’s Weekly, that was a 20 year book. (Laughs) I had been living with that for a long time. And that probably left a pretty deep mark on me. But I took a break in the middle to write “The Holocaust on Trial,” which really wasn’t a book that I wanted to write. I’m Jewish and I’m aware of the Holocaust. My father’s best friend was a Holocaust survivor, but it wasn’t something that I had been immersed in.

On the biggest challenge he could face and how he plans to overcome it: Editorially, I think the challenge is in fact the challenge that any editor faces, which is selection. There is so much happening and there is so much going on and it’s a signal to noise question. How do you filter out what matters? How do you decide? We’re not the Huffington Post or The Intercept. We don’t have an enormous staff or vast, multimillionaire backing. We have an incredibly hardworking, not tiny, it’s not a skeleton staff, we have a very good staff and we have a very large universe of writers who are delighted to write for us. But still we can’t chase everything. We certainly don’t have room in print for everything that we’d like to say, which is one of the reasons why it’s wonderful that we have a website. And it’s so active and so full of interest. But it’s still the question of figuring out what to pay attention to; picking your fights; picking your issues, and focus.

On anything he’d like to add: One of the experiences you have editing a magazine that everybody knows about but not everybody reads, (Laughs) is you’re meeting people who say they used to read The Nation or they used to subscribe to The Nation. And my message to those people is take another  a look. We have a new editor; we have new energy; we have I think a really important understanding of our responsibility and we are going to work very hard to live up to that responsibility. I say that not as a sense of duty, but I feel like our responsibility is not just to parse out what’s happening politically and provide cogent and trenchant analysis, which I think we do every week, but also to give people sources of delight and encouragement and energy.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I don’t think people have any conception about me because I don’t think that I’m that well-known. I’ve left a very long record, people can look at what I’ve written on all sorts of things. It’s all out there. My views are no secret. I suppose to the extent that there is a conception about me and that it’s a misconception, which I’m not sure either of which is true, I suppose that it’s I’m an entirely political creature. I am passionate about politics, and particularly about “small d- democracy,” but I care a lot about other things too. I care about music and food and all those things. And poetry and the natural world. So, I would say that if there is a misconception of me it’s that I only care about politics.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: That’s a good question because I only moved to New York recently and I still haven’t moved into my apartment. So, you’d catch me cooking for the friends who are putting me up. (Laughs again) If you were to catch me relaxing in the evening, I suppose you’d catch me talking to friends or maybe reading. I read lots of novels. Every night before I go to bed I usually read some of a novel. The problem is if it’s one I can’t put down, it ends up keeping me up too late, so I find I do my literary reading at the end of the day because most of those demand a kind of stillness and thought that I can still muster, but they also don’t keep me awake.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s nice of you to call me Dr. Don and it’s true that I have a Ph.D., but nobody calls me that. What keeps me up at night is my three children. They’re grown up, the youngest is 20. He’s a Jazz musician; my daughter lives in New York and she works in publishing, in small press publishing; and my oldest son is in The Netherlands and he’s a scientist. What keeps me up at night are their trials and tribulations, which like any parent, I think about. I suppose I could say the world we’re leaving to them. I don’t actually think in such grandiose terms really, most of the time. What keeps me up at night is the personal, rather than the political.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Don D. Guttenplan, editor, The Nation.

Samir Husni: I see from your bio that you went to Memphis Public Schools.

Don D. Guttenplan: Yes, I did.

Samir Husni: So, what’s the relationship with Memphis?

Don D. Guttenplan: My relationship with Memphis is that my parents lived there when I was in high school, so I went to high school there. My father was an itinerant social worker, so he traveled around a lot. When I lived in Memphis I couldn’t wait to leave. I skipped years and scrambled to escape early and went to New York, which was the center of the universe to me then.

But I realized fairly soon, first of all that I had been lucky and I had really gotten an excellent education from my public high school in Memphis, Tenn. I remember one of my professors at Columbia asking me – I had asked a question about “The Iliad” – and everybody at Columbia where I went to college had to read “The Iliad,” and I had already read it in high school, and she asked me where I did that, where did I go to high school. I told her in Memphis, Tenn. So, people have a lot of stereotypes about the South. One of my college professors used to tease me – he seemed surprised that I came to class wearing shoes. (Laughs)

But I realized that Memphis particularly was a good place to be from, mainly because of the incredibly rich musical culture, which still influences me as a source of delight. “The Waterboy” is playing London and I went to see it a couple of weeks ago, and their keyboard player played a song called “My Soul Is In Memphis, But My Ass Is In Nashville, Tenn.” (Laughs) Memphis is a little bit like that for me. I don’t go back very often; my family moved when I went to college. I went back for my 20th high school reunion and I’m going soon for my 45th. I think I may have been a couple of other times in the intervening years.

I used to say that the Delta was the landscape of my dreams because I often used to dream that I was somewhere in a very flat, very hot landscape with a big river. So, it an effect on me.

Samir Husni: You’re now the new incoming editor of one of the country’s oldest magazines, The Nation.

Don D. Guttenplan: America’s oldest weekly, as we say.

Samir Husni: So tell me, when you were offered the job of editor of America’s oldest weekly, what was your first reaction?

Don D. Guttenplan: Well, it was a conversation that we’d been having for a long time. My predecessor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, was editor for 25 years and she is now the editorial director and remains as publisher. And 25 years is a long time, and I think she was looking for someone to hand off to, that’s her side of it. And my side of it is, on November 9 or 10th, 2016, whatever the day was after the election, I had spent election night in upstate New York watching Zephyr Teachout lose her congressional race, basically. And I remember saying to the office that I was going to Zephyr’s headquarters because she’s probably not going to win, but if she does win it’ll be really interesting because I think she’s a significant thinker and activist and somebody who if her voice came into Congress it would be amazing. And I added, besides if she loses I have plenty of time to get down to Times Square to see Trump’s concession speech. (Laughs)

Although, I will say that I was one of the few journalists early on to say that we needed to take the possibility of Trump’s winning seriously. And if you look it up, in September 2015 at the very first Republican debate, that was the debate where they had the kid’s table and the grownup’s table because they had so many candidates, that was held in Cleveland, I wrote that there was nobody on that stage who could beat Trump, because that’s what I thought. That was also the debate where the moderator said that if there was someone who didn’t promise to support the eventual Republican nominee, hold up your hand. And Trump held up his hand. And I thought surely they would find a way to exclude him from the primaries. But I underestimated the venality of the Republican Party. (Laughs) As a candidate, he was potentially much more skillful than anyone else I saw that evening.

But anyway, I wasn’t expecting him to win the election. I was as surprised and devastated as probably anybody else. But I woke up the next morning in my hotel room, because by the time they called the election it was two-something in the morning and I was too tired to feel safe driving down to New York City, so I just checked into a hotel, and I got up and I wrote an editorial which became The Nation’s lead editorial the next day. And the last line of it was: “Welcome to the Fight.”

So, I suppose that’s how I felt. That’s what went through my mind when Katrina asked would I take over The Nation. If I’m welcoming other people to the fight, this is really not something that I can duck. To have this platform at this time in our country’s history and to have a platform with the lineage and the leverage of The Nation is both an incredible opportunity and also a heavy responsibility, which does weigh on me and which I take seriously.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, weeklies in print have struggled. What role do you think the print edition of The Nation plays with all of the different platforms it now exists upon?

Don D. Guttenplan: (Laughs) That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? When Katrina offered me the job and it became clear that I was going to accept it and we were going to find a way to make this happen, because I was in England at the time, the first task that I set myself was to think about print, the relation of print, and what The Nation is doing in print, because I’d often felt and said that we hadn’t really fully thought that through.

We’d entered all of these other platforms and we’re enthusiastic on them and have a great website and we have millions of unique readers, so the magazine’s reach and voice is extensive and that’s terrific, but there were some people who felt that print was over and I definitely didn’t feel that. And not just because I love print. My daughter loves print so much that works as a typesetter, so we’re a print-focused family in many ways.

But I also feel that there is a reflectivity; there’s a chance to persuade; there’s a chance to sit with an idea that print gives you that you don’t get anywhere else. But I have to say that I assigned myself the task, and because I’ve been a reporter for 40 years, the way I think about things is to write about them and report them, so I’m in the middle of, I haven’t finished writing a story about the future of print. My tentative findings though is that print is durable and it’s going to be around for a long time. And it does things that you can’t do online. And not just that you can’t read it in the bathroom.

It’s a much better place for intellectual debate; it’s a much better place to try and persuade someone; it’s a much better place to hear somebody’s voice. On the other hand, it’s a much worse place to break news. It’s a much worse place to be right-up-to-the-minute. I will confess to having an addiction to reading a newspaper in the morning with my coffee. I was paying a lot of money to The Guardian, when I was in London, to have it delivered every morning and I would be terribly upset on the few mornings that the delivery service would fail and it wouldn’t be there because I really like spreading out a newspaper and reading it while I’m having my coffee. But that’s a generational thing and I don’t actually know whether that will persist.

I don’t know whether younger people will want to get their news from dead trees that leave ink stains on their hands. I do and I love it and I love everything about it. I love the headlines, the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, all of that. But that may not be the future of print. In fact, the first person that I knew I wanted to interview was Katharine Viner, who is the editor of The Guardian and an old friend, and who has thought about journalism, print, and the Web more deeply than anybody else I know.  And she had lots of interesting things to say about that, which you’ll have to read my piece when I finish it to find out. (Laughs)

But in terms of magazines, I hadn’t seen your slogan until recently, if it’s not in print, it’s not a magazine, I am with you on that.

Samir Husni: What’s your vision for The Nation is this new century? Everyone says that we live in a digital age and no one can argue with that, but what will you bring to The Nation’s extensive legacy?

Don. D. Guttenplan: I’m glad you mentioned the extensive legacy because, of course, one of the things that I bring to The Nation and I think one of the reasons that Katrina asked me to do this is because I have a deeper sense of The Nation’s history perhaps than anyone since I wrote it. I wrote the book The Nation: A Biography in 2015 for the magazine’s 150th. So I’m quite aware of both the failings and the achievements of my 15 successors in this chair as editor. And I’m quite aware of what The Nation has been over time.

And one of the things that has been over time is a voice for progressive ideas, for ideas that move toward a vision of justice, to try and bend the arc of the universe toward justice, whether it was 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves, literacy training for freed slaves, or whether it was workers’ rights. And one of the earlier editors of The  Nation was one of the founders of the NAACP. So The Nation has been a voice for progress for a long time. And I think having an awareness of that is important.

I don’t really mean to dis another publication, but I remember there was a period where The New Republic was abandoning print and they were calling themselves a multimedia platform, because they were bought by this guy that was a former Facebook founder. And I thought, that’s not what you do with a legacy like that. You don’t just write it off, so I’m not going to write off our legacy.

But I think what I bring to the job aside from its sense of history are two things. One is sensibility and that sensibility is an awareness that the role that The Nation plays that nobody else plays, and nobody else has played since The New Republic started its leaning toward the right under Marty Peretz, which was a long time ago, is we are the place where liberals and radicals argue with each other and where they meet and contest ideas.

We are the place that exposes liberals to radical ideas and we are the place that exposes radicals to a, maybe a sort of tempering, of their passions that define liberal thought or the awareness of complexity that maybe liberals would say keeps them from being radicals. We are the space where those Venn diagrams overlap. And I think that’s a really important function on both sides. There is no progress without radicals, and on the other hand in democracy, which I am deeply committed to, you don’t make change without convincing the majority. And the majority by definition are never going to be radicals. It’s that process; it’s that, to use the outdated but to me essential term, it’s that dialectic that defines one of The Nation’s most important rules. So, I think I bring an awareness of and a sympathy for both sides of that dialectic that is going to be useful.

And the other thing is that although I’m an election junkie and it says so on my Twitter profile (Laughs), and I’ve been involved in politics for a long time and I’ve been involved in journalism and daily journalism from New York Newsday to the International Herald Tribune, those are not the limits of what interests me. I shipped 82 orders of books from London to my office here, to mostly put on the shelves in my office. And a lot of them were poetry.

The idea that magazine editors have a vision, some of them do and maybe that’s a good thing, but I’m not sure that I have a vision. I have a sensibility and I have some things that I want to do. I feel like we have a lot of work to do, both at this magazine and in this country. And I’m going to put my shoulder to that work, but in doing so, I want our readers to have a lot more pleasure from the experience reading The Nation. And for it to be a source of regular surprise and delight to them. That’s something that is easy for us to neglect in the kind of grim slog of exposing Trump’s daily depredations, which is a very important part of what we do.

But I don’t want that to be the limit of what we do. And I think that’s both a sensibility question and also maybe a political question. I’m very fond of quoting, and it made a big impression on me, the founder of Breitbart’s dictum, that politics is downstream of culture. I think that’s really true. One of the things that has happened in America is that the right has understood that. And understood it in a much deeper way than we have on the left.

At The Nation, we’ve always had an incredibly stimulating, engaging and penetrating back of the book, which in some ways has also been traditionally independent of the front of the book, but I want to break that wall down a little bit and have more room for culture up front as well as in the back.

Samir Husni: Talking about culture, journalism and democracy, in today’s society is journalism still necessary for the survival of democracy or are we seeing true journalism fading away and giving place to fake news and alternative facts? How important is journalism to the future of this country?

Don. D. Guttenplan: I don’t think you can have a democracy without a functioning press. I think it’s absolutely crucial and we are actually blessed in America with a really good press, particularly with what were our legacy print publications, such as The New York Times, for example. It’s funny because I worked at the Village Voice for three years and when I worked there, The New York Times was our enemy. Every day we would roll our eyes at some horrible sell-out, commercial, terrible headline or a failure to understand the true politics behind some event.

And it’s not that I disavow any of that, but on the other hand I feel we are so lucky in America to have a good daily journal that is a good source of daily news, daily journalism, where the reporters go deep and you can often, not always, but often, you can believe what they print. (Laughs) I spent 20 years living in Europe, where all you have except for maybe the Financial Times is a partisan press. And you have to filter everything through the ideological filter of the paper.

I understand that centrism and objectivity are all ideological filters of their own, and I understand that there are things that you exclude by them that are maybe essential to the conversation and that The Nation needs to restore and to lift that into the spotlight, but still there is an awful lot that is reported and that you can know if you want to just by reading the papers in America. And I think that’s a great thing.

But I also think that it’s tricky, because part of Trump’s strategy is to attack the press and to devalue the press and to basically convince his listeners that they’re all crooked, they’re all as bad as each other. That Fox News is not  an outlier, but is what all journalism is, it’s just that on Fox maybe it’s more obvious from one side. And I hate that. It’s one of the things that I hate about television news, this increasing sense of polarization.

And also the increasing sense that you can pretty much say anything because nobody is going to check. We at The Nation, we fact check what we run. You can’t do that in a daily newspaper, but then when I worked in daily journalism it was definitely widely understood that if you got it wrong more than a couple of times you were going to get fired. (Laughs) So, it had its own powerful fact check.

This is sort of a looping answer to your question, but I think journalism is essential and I think that the kind of journalism that The Nation does has become much more important even than it was in say, the George W. Bush era when we were alone and lonely and the brave voice of sanity.

Samir Husni: You’re an author, you have a few books under your belt; you’re an editor and you’ve been a correspondent; you’ve worked with big, major newspapers and smaller newspapers; from all of these manifestations of your journalistic skills, what is dearest to your heart? Is it being an author, an editor, or is it the last job that you’re doing?

Don. D. Guttenplan: I think they all shape each other. “American Radical,” which is my biography of I. F. Stone , The Nation’s long-time Washington correspondent, and then founder of I. F. Stone’s Weekly, that was a 20 year book. (Laughs) I had been living with that for a long time. And that probably left a pretty deep mark on me. But I took a break in the middle to write “The Holocaust on Trial,” which really wasn’t a book that I wanted to write. I’m Jewish and I’m aware of the Holocaust. My father’s best friend was a Holocaust survivor, but it wasn’t something that I had been immersed in.

What attracted me to it was my interest in British libel laws and because the libel laws in Britain are different. In America the burden of truth is on the person who is suing, the claimant. In Britain the burden of proof is on the defendant. Rich people and powerful interests use British courts to suppress information that they want to suppress. And it was in the course of being interested in that this trial came to my attention and I ended up writing a book about it.

In writing the Stone biography, I spent a lot of time reading the newspaper that Stone wrote for in the 1940s, which was called “PM.” And I don’t know if you know very much about it, but it was really a very revolutionary thing for print in America. It was a very intelligent left wing tabloid. It revolutionized the way papers looked, because it had, for example, Margaret Bourke-White as a photographer. It had Dr. Seuss as a cartoonist; it had a childcare advice columnist named Benjamin Spock, and it had I.F. Stone as its Washington correspondent.

The manifesto of the paper was written by its publisher and founder, a guy called Ralph Ingersoll. And it was “We don’t like people who push other people around.” And I feel like that’s kind of a thread that runs through pretty much everything I’ve written: how do you deal with people who push other people around and how do societies organize themselves; how can people who have been pushed around defend themselves the way the defendant in “The Holocaust on Trial” defended herself.

And it’s not just because it was my last book, it is in some ways the thing that is most pertinent to, certainly, my sense of politics, which is my most recent book, “The Next Republic,” which is partly a series of hysterical essays about what you might call the Rise of the Populist Left in America, which is something we don’t hear very much about these days. And also a series of profiles of activists from organized labor, from racial justice, from the environmental movement, and the last chapter is about Zephyr Teachout, which is about monopolies and corporations and how to control huge corporations. So it’s essentially about people fighting back and doing it successfully. And whether you can build a political movement out of that. It’s an open question, but it’s a question that I certainly want to lend my support to as editor of The Nation.

Samir Husni: As you look at this new position and contemplate the future, what do you think will be the biggest challenge that you’re going to face and how do you plan to overcome it?

Don. D. Guttenplan: There are lots of challenges. There are business challenges and I’m not the business side, that’s the publisher and the president’s side. But I’ve been in this business long enough to know that you can’t ignore that and you can’t not pay attention to it. So, I think one big challenge is to ensure that the magazine flourishes. That we reach our full print audience potential of paying subscribers and that they’re happy to pay what it costs to keep The Nation in business. That’s a business challenge.

Editorially, I think the challenge is in fact the challenge that any editor faces, which is selection. There is so much happening and there is so much going on and it’s a signal to noise question. How do you filter out what matters? How do you decide? We’re not the Huffington Post or The Intercept. We don’t have an enormous staff or vast, multimillionaire backing. We have an incredibly hardworking, not tiny, it’s not a skeleton staff, we have a very good staff and we have a very large universe of writers who are delighted to write for us.

But still we can’t chase everything. We certainly don’t have room in print for everything that we’d like to say, which is one of the reasons why it’s wonderful that we have a website. And it’s so active and so full of interest. But it’s still the question of figuring out what to pay attention to; picking your fights; picking your issues, and focus.

I read a piece earlier on in the Trump administration about chaff, I don’t know if you saw it. Chaff was the term the British used for their defense against missiles and bombing during World War II. And it was essentially we’re using thousands and thousands of little pieces of metal, sort of like aluminum foil in order to deflect and confuse radar. It’s a radar defense tactic. And I was saying that’s kind of Trump’s tactic, that he says all of this stuff all the time and sometimes he means it and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he just says it. And if we spend all of our time tracking that, then we’re going to be exhausted and demoralized and we’re not going to have any time to think strategically.

So, I guess my biggest challenge is figuring out what really matters. And that’s not my personal biggest challenge, it’s the biggest challenge of any editor in this environment.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Don. D. Guttenplan: One of the experiences you have editing a magazine that everybody knows about but not everybody reads, (Laughs) is you’re meeting people who say they used to read The Nation or they used to subscribe to The Nation. And my message to those people is take another  a look. We have a new editor; we have new energy; we have I think a really important understanding of our responsibility and we are going to work very hard to live up to that responsibility. I say that not as a sense of duty, but I feel like our responsibility is not just to parse out what’s happening politically and provide cogent and trenchant analysis, which I think we do every week, but also to give people sources of delight and encouragement and energy.

There’s a wonderful book and all I’m going to do is nod to the title. The book is about the cultural survival of Native Americans and their culture, but it’s called “Radical Hope” by Jonathan Lear. It’s an amazing book, but my point is that I feel that’s one of the things that we have to offer people, radical hope.

Our columnist, who is also a Guardian columnist and also a friend of mine, Gary Young, said about my book, which is called “The Next Republic,” he said it’s optimistic but not delusional. And I feel like that’s the space that I want to be in. Optimistic, but not delusional. It’s very easy for anybody who is engaged in political struggle to kid themselves and spend a lot of time just reinforcing their own prejudices and preconceptions. We’re not going to do that. We are going to tell people the truth and we are going to believe in the radical power that comes from telling people the truth.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Don. D. Guttenplan: (Laughs) I don’t think people have any conception about me because I don’t think that I’m that well-known. I’ve left a very long record, people can look at what I’ve written on all sorts of things. It’s all out there. My views are no secret. I suppose to the extent that there is a conception about me and that it’s a misconception, which I’m not sure either of which is true, I suppose that it’s I’m an entirely political creature. I am passionate about politics, and particularly about “small d- democracy,” but I care a lot about other things too. I care about music and food and all those things. And poetry and the natural world. So, I would say that if there is a misconception of me it’s that I only care about politics.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Don. D. Guttenplan: (Laughs) That’s a good question because I only moved to New York recently and I still haven’t moved into my apartment. So, you’d catch me cooking for the friends who are putting me up. (Laughs again) If you were to catch me relaxing in the evening, I suppose you’d catch me talking to friends or maybe reading. I read lots of novels. Every night before I go to bed I usually read some of a novel. The problem is if it’s one I can’t put down, it ends up keeping me up too late, so I find I do my literary reading at the end of the day because most of those demand a kind of stillness and thought that I can still muster, but they also don’t keep me awake.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps Dr. Don up at night?

Don. D. Guttenplan: (Laughs) It’s nice of you to call me Dr. Don and it’s true that I have a Ph.D., but nobody calls me that. What keeps me up at night is my three children. They’re grown up, the youngest is 20. He’s a Jazz musician; my daughter lives in New York and she works in publishing, in small press publishing; and my oldest son is in The Netherlands and he’s a scientist. What keeps me up at night are their trials and tribulations, which like any parent, I think about. I suppose I could say the world we’re leaving to them. I don’t actually think in such grandiose terms really, most of the time. What keeps me up at night is the personal, rather than the political.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Russian Interference In Presidential Elections Circa 1952… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 17, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Focus magazine, October 1952 about “The Russians Look At U.S. Elections.”

The similarities between now and then were more striking to me than any other article I have read from the 1950s so far.  Yes, the media platforms are different today, but the message is still the same.  And for those who believe there is anything new under the sun, read this article and let me know what you think….

Enjoy this blast from the past (Focus magazine, October 1952, Vol. 2, No. 10)…

The Russians Look At U.S. Elections

Moscow takes a crack at our every 4-year voting habits, comes up with a sizzling 2 Roubles’ worth on the candidates

On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower (“the ruthless, heartless militarizer of Columbia University”) and Adlai Stevenson (“a big business candidate in spite of pious declarations”) will come to grips for the office of President of the United States. But practically nobody will bother to be at the polls “since the majority of voters, long disappointed in American democracy, refuses to go to the ballot… the really intelligent masses of people prefer to stay away.”

Thus speaks Pravda and Izvestia on our electoral habits.  And though Americans may laugh heartily, the average Russian citizen, clutching his newspaper as he rides the Moscow Metro home from work, knows that this is the “truth” about decadent, capitalistic U.S.A.

If you’re at all confused as to how General Eisenhower managed to snare the Republican nomination, Russia’s Tass News Agency has the exclusive story: “The convention was a battle between Eastern financial interests headed by the duPonts, Morgans, and Rockefellers supporting General Eisenhower, and Midwestern fiscal and industrial giants backing Senator Taft.” (The Russian account goes on to mention Andrew Mellon, dead since 1937, as a leading Taft backer.) “One of the strongest Eisenhower backers was Henry Ford II who directed the campaign in behalf of his candidate from abroad a yacht anchored off Michigan Boulevard.” (Ford was undoubtedly the first truly floating delegate in U.S. history.)

The Democrats, however, got the full treatment, with non-candidate Truman bearing brunt. Pleased to hear Truman was not up for re-election, the Russian Literary Gazette commented: “As is well known, Truman has never been distinguished by any originality of ideas. He was always a copy-cat.  It was from Hitler he borrowed his delirious ideas of establishing a Fascist empire… from the Japanese Emperor he bought the patent to use the black plague fleas in Korea.”

As for the actual candidate Stevenson, however, Communists can’t help whip up much enthusiasm because they have known since May that “Eisenhower is not a Republican at all.  He is a Trojan horse, skillfully smuggled by the Democrats into the opposing camp.” (Liberation, pro-Communist Paris paper.)

Russian Press attention included pre-convention closeups: Taft: “Die-hard companion of Dulles and company.” Kefauver: “He always tried to palm himself off as the personification of honesty, but he did not show any real zeal to uproot crime in America.” Pre-election propaganda focused on Ike, as “spiritual father of the 6-legged European monster, the NATO Army” and “an ignoramus who has not read a book in the last 9 years.”

On May 4 this year, Pravda told whom we’d vote for if not terrorized by capitalist bullies: Red-dominated Progressive Party and its candidate Vincent Hallinan.

But terrorized and bullied, caught between the Devil (“militarizer” Ike) and the deep blue see (“lackey” Adlai) close to 50 million unhappy Americans will turn out to vote.  And whatever happens, the Russians barrage of written and cartooned propaganda will continue, for, Republicans and Democrats, we’re a decadent lot. Consolation is: We are free, and our elections have more than one man from whom to choose.

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What’s Wrong With The Post Office? A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 14, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Quick magazine, Feb. 16, 1953 about “What Wrong with the Mail?”

The similarities between now and then were striking to me, so I decided to publish the entire article here.  Would love to hear your comments…

Enjoy this blast from the past…

 

What’s Wrong With the Mails?

The deficit-ridden U. S Post Office Dept. was in for an overhaul-perhaps its most sweeping since the 1930’s. Behind the effort was a mounting tide of complaints about:

  • Slow mail delivery.
  • Once-a-day home delivery.
  • Damaged and lost mail.

One of the Government’s biggest and most criticized-business operations, the postal service, has 500,000 employes, spends $3 billion a year. The world’s largest postal service, it claims it is the world’s best. That final point is where debate centers. Congress has criticized the agency for its millions of deficits each year; patrons rail every time service is cut and at every increase in rates.

Will the Postman Ring Twice?

The Republican platform last year recognized these complaints, included promises of “more frequent deliveries.” Congressional committees are studying proposals from both Democrats and Republicans to restore twice-a-day home delivery, curtailed in 1950 to save money. But restoring it, Post Office officials say, will cost $150 million a year. This would set the deficit climbing again-and it has dropped only in the last year.

Postmaster Gen. Arthur Summerfield has ordered a complete study of the department to see how it can improve its finances, facilities and employe relations. The powerful National Assn. of Letter Carriers is clamoring for revision of personnel policies.

Career postal officials blame the deficit on congress, say that if the department budget needs to be balanced, Congress can raise postal rates. They attribute $160 million of the deficit to handling of “franked” mail for Government agencies and Congress, free mail for the blind, and other mail not covered by postage. Second-class mail (Newspapers and magazines) and air mail are handled at a loss.

Slow-Down Factors

Congress’ economy drives also are blamed for curtailed deliveries and night collections. These factors slow deliveries to the extent that an air mail letter may require three days for delivery from the time it’s posted between Portland, Maine, and San Francisco-though it travels between the cities in13 hours. Employee negligence also may slow deliveries-as in the case of the Alabama postman who dumped bundles of mail into a culvert during the Christmas rush. The Post Office retorts it’s understaffed.

Mechanical devices to speed mail have been researched, but with mixed success. Mechanical sorting machines have not proved satisfactory-it’s hard for a machine to read addresses. Costs of helicopter mail delivery between officials within New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have been found high-helicopters don’t carry the load that big mail trucks do.

Grounds for Argument

The Post Office claims a generally good record on deliveries, but there are slipups. Examples: 1) A Providence, R.I., theater owner put out a two-week advance notice on a new show left town; 2) the N.Y World-Telegram and Sun claimed that some test letters mailed in the city took longer to reach its office than others sent from London and Paris.

Pneumatic tubes have been used to link postal offices in part of the New York area, but this also is a high-cost operation.

The research has, however, developed special baskets for handling parcel post-to curb loss from breakage caused when packages are thrown around sorting rooms; and motor scooters are helping postmen manage heavy mail packs.

Many of the post office built in the 1930’s have been outgrown as population boomed. Crowded buildings hamper mail handling. Since 1940, there’s been no regular Post Office building program, due to defense demands on materials and money.

One great factor slowing the mails has been the huge increase in mailing-now an average of 315 pieces a year for each person in the U.S., compared with 219 pieces in 1941. These mountains of mail clog railroad and truck postal centers and slow up the handling of shipments.

Adding to the problem is the public’s attitude. A year ago, the Post Office got Congress to cut the maximum size for parcels. But instead of a major part of the parcel post business going to the Railway Express, as expected, postal authorities claim “Proof” that many mails just divided big packages into two smaller ones-adding to the postal glut.

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A Blast From The Past: Gossip Magazines Reign Supreme… From The Vault of Mr. Magazine™

June 11, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Show magazine, July 1955 about Gossip magazines (what we now call Celebrity magazines…)

The similarities between now and then was striking to me, so I decided to publish the entire article here.  Would love to hear your comments…

Enjoy this blast from the past…

GOSSIP…

America’s Newest Parlor Game

“ WHO WOULD have believed two years ago that gossip magazines would be sweeping the country,” remarked a Pulitzer prize winning author at a recent interview. He’s not the only one who has been shaking his head at the new trend in American reading habits.

Unlike anything in the history of the publishing business, gossip magazines have captured the fancy of readers of all ages. What’s behind this reading revolution? Why does the average American delight in seeing other people’s dirty linen washed in public?  Is it a new vogue?

In the first place, it’s the reader, not the magazines, who creates the demand for the gossip publications. The publishers just supply the demand. To date this demand has resulted in over two dozen such publications- all of them following the lead of confidential magazine. Confidential, the first publication to realize the unlimited potential of this market, today outsells on the newsstand any other single magazine- including such giants as Life, Ladies’ Home Journal or TV Guide. Its actual printing is an excess of 4 million copies.

Like any other controversial medium, scandal mags have come under their share of fire- and praise. Al this being done in public arouses public curiosity- and, of course, more sales.

Scandal, which includes anything from the love affairs of top movie stars to the café society set, was certainly not discovered by magazines. Gossip columnist have attracted to their newspapers millions of readers with scandal tidbits. Such items as “ Who is Renovating”- and why, has earned a fortune for Walter Winchell. Other columnists who try to jump into the gossip gravy train, are just imitating the master, Winchell.

DON’T BE SHOCKED

This may be a surprise to you, but in many instances the person whose life or romances is being exposed often gets early proofs of the story for corrections.

The reason? Some playboys and stars feel that publicity either flattering or damaging is good publicity. The publisher of one of the top scandal mags was thanked recently by an entertainer for revealing his “affair” with a movie star. Why? Well, as the entertainer put it, “You sure put me in the big leagues- now a dozen girls in Hollywood want me.”

Another Hollywood star who was a juvenile delinquent with a long record was fully aware he was getting the “treatment” in a gossip mag. It was his one way of getting attention- and did he get it! Readers revealed in the juicy gossip. There’ll be a lot of blushing faces when they read here that this movie star had read and okayed the story for publication. Result? Besides prestige, he now is in greater demand than ever and he’s boosted his movie price per picture by $50,000.

Scandal mags are based on the principle that people forget what they read in the newspapers.

The second gimmick is to research the past of famous people because mistakes and misdeeds of a dozen years ago makes juicy reading to new audiences today. Thus, someone in his or her twenties would be titillated by the Mary Astor Diaries and George Kaufman, the Fatty Arbuckle case, and the Simone Simon Affair- all of which appeared in the papers in sordid detail a number of years ago.

Such people as ex-Madame Polly Adler and Jelke and his V-girls are also fair game for the scandal magazines. The mags seldom, however, present anything that is new to the gullible public.

For any reader who isn’t aware of the pasts of famous stars, members of café society and the what’s what of the who’s who in the social register, the gossip mags provide rather entertaining reading.

SHOW magazine, curious as to why people revel in other people’s inglorious pats, checked with several psychiatrists. For the most part of the doctors agreed that: “Scandal magazines serve a need and are quite comparable to the Charlie Chaplin movies of old. People all over the world enjoyed watching the down-and-out tramp, for no matter how badly off the viewer was, there was someone (Chaplin) who was worse off than he. With the scandal magazines, the same principle holds true. Many people have skeletons in their closets- Kinsey’s report proved that. Yet people are eager to read the exposes of famous men and women whose skeletons are rattled in public- so they can gnaw at the bones. It boils down to the fact that gossip magazines appeal to the snobbishness in all of us.” P.S Several of the psychiatrists admitted that they read the scandal magazines themselves.

It is not mysterious, therefore, to figure out why people stand in line to buy Confidential or Uncensored, the second-best seller in that field. The magazines all follow the same, newsy format of three or four pictures on the cover with splashes of gaudy color all geared to invite the gossip reader to shell out that quarter.

All in all, total sales for the twenty-odd magazines in this scandal category reach close to 10 million per month. This fabulous impact has reacted on other top, general magazines who now seek to compete by placing at least one “scandal-type” expose story between the covers of every issue. The magazines reached the height of something or other recently when Jackie Gleason’s program plugged Confidential, and Time magazine interviewed the publisher of said magazine.

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

As long as the gossip holds out that’s how long the magazines will continue their run of popularity. Naturally, this could go on indefinitely- or as long as the public taste for gossip holds out. This could be tomorrow – or 50 years from now.

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