An Editor Now At Large

Michael Kinsley marks his return to TNR by reflecting on his on-again, off-again relationship with the magazine:

This time, I return not as the editor (please direct your complaints and article submissions elsewhere) but as “editor-at-large.” I see this as a sort of avuncular role, in which my primary duty will be cornering the young people in the office and forcing them to listen to tedious anecdotes about the old days. I also plan to write self-indulgent, lachrymose memoirs of journalistic colleagues and friends as they, one by one, drop off their perches.

Heh. I always preferred Michael Lewis’s description of being a “senior editor” at TNR: “I am senior to no one and I edit nothing.” The best job in journalism, in my book. Another Kinsley classic:

Every editor has a set of stock excuses for turning down articles with minimal damage to an author’s feelings. I usually went with a vague, “Doesn’t meet our needs right now.” It always amazed me when a disappointed author would cross-examine an editor, pointing out the logical flaws in the reason offered for not publishing his or her masterpiece. “What do you mean, you just ran a piece on a similar topic? That one was about tourism in Bolivia. This one is about Trotskyism in Bulgaria. You’re not making any sense!” I used to think, “Well of course I’m not making any sense. I’m lying to avoid saying, ‘Your piece is unpublishable crap.'” What I usually said was a cowardly, “Let me have another look.”

He wasn’t as kind to the interns. I repeat myself like an editor-at-large might, but I will never forget giving Mike a first draft of a long and carefully wrought piece (I had yet to be turned into a proper hack), and getting the edit back within a few hours. About two thirds of the piece had been highlighted with the immortal words:

This is crap. Cut it.

I did.