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The Art of Making Magazines

The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry

Victor S. Navasky
Evan Cornog
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Art of Making Magazines
    Book Description:

    In this entertaining anthology, editors, writers, art directors, and publishers from such magazines as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Elle, and Harper's draw on their varied, colorful experiences to explore a range of issues concerning their profession. Combining anecdotes with expert analysis, these leading industry insiders speak on writing and editing articles, developing great talent, effectively incorporating art and design, and the critical relationship between advertising dollars and content. They emphasize the importance of fact checking and copyediting; share insight into managing the interests (and potential conflicts) of various departments; explain how to parlay an entry-level position into a masthead title; and weigh the increasing influence of business interests on editorial decisions. In addition to providing a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the making of successful and influential magazines, these contributors address the future of magazines in a digital environment and the ongoing importance of magazine journalism. Full of intimate reflections and surprising revelations, The Art of Making Magazines is both a how-to and a how-to-be guide for editors, journalists, students, and anyone hoping for a rare peek between the lines of their favorite magazines. The chapters are based on talks delivered as part of the George Delacorte Lecture Series at the Columbia School of Journalism.

    Essays include: "Talking About Writing for Magazines (Which One Shouldn't Do)" by John Gregory Dunne; "Magazine Editing Then and Now" by Ruth Reichl; "How to Become the Editor in Chief of Your Favorite Women's Magazine" by Roberta Myers; "Editing a Thought-Leader Magazine" by Michael Kelly; "Fact-Checking at The New Yorker" by Peter Canby; "A Magazine Needs Copyeditors Because...." by Barbara Walraff; "How to Talk to the Art Director" by Chris Dixon; "Three Weddings and a Funeral" by Tina Brown; "The Simpler the Idea, the Better" by Peter W. Kaplan; "The Publisher's Role: Crusading Defender of the First Amendment or Advertising Salesman?" by John R. MacArthur; "Editing Books Versus Editing Magazines" by Robert Gottlieb; and "The Reader Is King" by Felix Dennis

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50469-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Evan Cornog and Victor S. Navasky

    John Gregory Dunne began his Delacorte lecture on February 14, 2003, by observing that “in general, it is bad business for writers to talk about writing. William Faulkner once said that a writer’s obituary should read, ‘he wrote the books, and then he died.’”

    Dunne died before the year was out, but as you will see from his talk, at least as far as his meditation on the writer’s voice was concerned, he was wrong. No point in summarizing what he had to say here, because a) his nuanced, careful prose does not easily lend itself to paraphrase; and b)...

  4. 1 Talking About Writing for Magazines (Which One Shouldn’t Do)
    (pp. 1-28)
    John Gregory Dunne

    In general, it is bad business for a writer to talk about writing. William Faulkner once said that a writer’s obituary should read, “He wrote the books, then he died.”

    Allowing for the Faulkner caveat, let me state a few basic precepts. I am a writer. I am a professional writer. I write to make a living. That is what I do. I do it the same way some people make their living as lawyers or teachers or executives or engineers or investment analysts or doctors or contractors or entrepreneurs or bureaucrats, or even as remittance men. Writing is my...

  5. 2 Magazine Editing Then and Now
    (pp. 29-46)
    Ruth Reichl

    I thought I would maybe start by telling you a little bit about my background, and how I ended up here.

    I was cooking at a small restaurant in Berkeley, California, in the mid-’70s, when an editor of New West magazine—which was a magazine that Clay Felker started as the sister publication of New York magazine—sent me off to write my first restaurant review.

    Now, I have to set the scene for you here: my husband and I are living in a commune in Berkeley. We have no money. I mean, we have not been to a restaurant...

  6. 3 How to Become the Editor-in-Chief of Your Favorite Women’s Magazine
    (pp. 47-60)
    Roberta Myers

    How many of you read fashion magazines? And how many of you think that fashion magazines are basically bad for women? I want to talk about that. And a bit about my career, with the hope that my crooked path to editor-in-chief may somewhat illuminate the magazine business. And about Elle, with the hope that it might shed some light on the kind of work you can find in fashion and women’s magazines. And then I’m going to tell you how to flatter an editor to get a job.

    I went to college at a big land-grant school in the...

  7. 4 Editing a Thought-Leader Magazine
    (pp. 61-72)
    Michael Kelly

    I want to begin with a small story that reflects poorly upon myself. When I was beginning to freelance just before the Gulf War, and was very broke, I got a terrific windfall. I was living in Chicago, off my girlfriend’s earnings—I was making about $2,000 to $3,000 a year—when I met an editor from Playboy. Playboy was based—I guess still is based—in Chicago, so I had a chat with him, and to my astonishment got an assignment worth $5,000 or $6,000.

    It was at least double my annual income. The assignment was to go around...

  8. 5 Fact-Checking at The New Yorker
    (pp. 73-84)
    Peter Canby

    When I first interviewed to join the checking department a number of years ago, the then managing editor of The New Yorker told me that fact-checking was the best way to learn the basics of journalism, much better than a journalism degree, he assured me.

    The New Yorker has traditionally devoted a lot of resources to its fact-checking department. There are presently sixteen fact-checkers. To many people that sounds like a lot, but there are no assistant or associate editors at The New Yorker and in many ways checkers, along with the top-level copyeditors, fill that gap.

    The role that...

  9. 6 A Magazine Needs Copyeditors Because …
    (pp. 85-100)
    Barbara Walraff

    I could be a one-woman panel discussion about copyediting. Not only have I worked as a copyeditor, but I have also worked with copyeditors, and as an assigning editor and as a writer. I have taught copyeditors, and the workshops that I taught gave me a chance to listen to the needs and problems of copyeditors around the country, who work for all types of publications, everything from professional engineering journals to Golf Digest.

    On the one-woman panel theme, I thought about bringing different hats to wear and changing them, to show you when I was changing point of view—...

  10. 7 How to Talk to the Art Director
    (pp. 101-112)
    Chris Dixon

    MODERATOR: Let’s start with the joke you made to me on our way to the lecture hall, about the art people and the editorial people being enemies. Why don’t we begin with what happens when a writer turns in his piece?

    CHRIS DIXON: Sure. The nature of a weekly magazine like New York is driven by the need for a fast turnover. We start planning based on the assigned length of the piece—3,000 words, 5,000 words, 8,000 words, what have you, and that’s what it’s been planned to. So the writer is supposed to write to that length. The editor is working with the...

  11. 8 Three Weddings and a Funeral
    (pp. 113-130)
    Tina Brown

    It is great to be here, and I am ready to share all the things that I’ve learned in this checkered career I’ve had. I’ve called my talk “Three Weddings and a Funeral.”

    I’ve been lucky enough to get four great editing opportunities in my life. And tonight I am very happy to accept this invitation to share those experiences with you, because I have learned something different, really, from each one of them. Although I would say the one that perhaps I’ve learned the most from was the one that didn’t work—Talk magazine, which closed earlier this year...

  12. 9 The Simpler the Idea, the Better
    (pp. 131-140)
    Peter W. Kaplan

    How did I get into this game? When I was a kid, my dad used to bring Esquire home once a month. He’d unclick the briefcase and there was this big magazine with these covers, what I now recognize as George Lois covers, with big pictures and witty lines: there was Richard Nixon being made up by an army of makeup men, there was Hubert Humphrey as a marionette on Lyndon Johnson’s lap. There was Svetlana Stalin with her father’s moustache, and of course, there was William Calley surrounded by smiling Vietnamese children.

    What kind of magazine was this? Inside...

  13. 10 The Publisher’s Role Crusading Defender of the First Amendment or Advertising Salesman?
    (pp. 141-154)
    John R. MacArthur

    I confess that I’ve always harbored fantastic and romantic notions about being a magazine or newspaper publisher. At different times in my life, all sorts of preposterous images have presented themselves to me. I’m a raffishly crusading publisher-editor, something like Humphrey Bogart in Deadline U.S.A. I’m a patrician publisher, unbought and above reproach, with my somewhat severe oil portrait hanging in the lobby of my building above the ancient and retired Linotype machine. The painting depicts me seated on a desk, my three-piece suit vest elegantly buttoned up, casually holding my publication open across my lap.

    I’ve even seen myself...

  14. 11 Editing Books Versus Editing Magazines
    (pp. 155-164)
    Robert Gottlieb

    I’m not a journalist, and my only connection to journalism was the six years that I was the editor of The New Yorker magazine, where there was a lot of journalism, but of a different kind than most. So I’m not sure that my experience there as an editor is typical of the experience of most editors who work with journalists.

    So I am primarily a book editor, and most of what I can tell you has to do with what [editing] can achieve at its best and what it can screw up at its worst, which it often is....

  15. 12 The Reader Is King
    (pp. 165-178)
    Felix Dennis

    You cannot hope

    to bribe or twist,

    thank God! the British


    But, seeing what

    the man will do

    unbribed, there’s

    no occasion to.

    You may think that Humbert Wolfe was being as harsh as he was chauvinistic when he penned those lines in the 1920s. Well, perhaps; but Rebecca West didn’t think so. As a novelist and prolific contributor to magazines and newspapers, she had a verdict on your chosen profession even more damning: “Journalism—an ability to meet the challenge of filling the space.”

    I might add that she omitted the essential rider to this definition: “on time...

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 179-180)