Now It’s Your Turn: What Will Happen in 2013?

By Mike Feinsilber

This posting has little to do with writing or editing. It’s a quiz. You can make some copies, pass them around at your New Year’s Eve party and then invite the same guests this time next year (TTNY) to see who wins the Nate Silver award. I’ll post the answers TTNY.

1. The Census Bureau estimates the U. S. population as of 12/28/2012 at 315,010,174 and world population at 7,061,123,280. What will those numbers be at this time next year (TTNY)?

Learning to Love Freelance Writers

By Jack Limpert

One of the adventures for an editor is putting out a magazine using only freelance writers. It’s how The Washingtonian did it in its early days, and for the most part it was lots of fun. Freelancers those first three years included Carl Bernstein, Maury Povich, Scottie Smith, Tom Shales, Judith Viorst, Charlie McDowell, Cornelia Noland, Rob Kanigel, Barbara Raskin, David Richards, Jack Mann, Margaret Bresnahan, Tom Kelly, Bud Carmin, Marilyn Berger, Jim Perry, Kandy Stroud, Al Eisele, Pat Furgurson, Judith Crist, Bryce Nelson, and Kitty Kelley.

More on the Joys and Sorrows of Being an Editor

By Jack Limpert

Yesterday I wrote about Ben Bradlee, the importance he placed on damage control, the kind of problems that editors have to deal with, and how an editor can avoid be driven crazy by it all.  Here’s more on the subject from Dick Babcock.

Staying Sane: Something Surprising an Editor Can Learn from Ben Bradlee

By Jack Limpert

For a good close-up portrait of an editor at work, pick up Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee, by Jeff Himmelman. It’s a lively, entertaining book, and it is so intimate that some of its characters—notably Sally Quinn and Bob Woodward—are not likely to speak to the author again.

The book has lots of insights into how Bradlee made the Washington Post the nation’s hottest newspaper. Late in the book, Himmelman writes about a part of an editor’s job that doesn’t often get talked about:

Larry Van Dyne, Bob Kaylor, and Wes Pippert: The Books That Made Them Write

By Mike Feinsilber

Larry Van Dyne grew up on a family farm in northern Missouri and graduated from the journalism school at the University of Missouri, where he wrote for its city daily and was editor of the student newspaper. He landed a job as an education reporter at the Boston Globe, spent 10 years traveling the country for the Chronicle of Higher Education, then worked for 30 years as a senior writer at The Washingtonian, the city magazine in the nation’s capital. A generalist in an age of specialization, he’s written about lawyers and banker robbers, museum directors and basketball coaches, the environment and universities, historians and jazz musicians, airline crashes and architecture, politicians and transexuals.

Reporter at Work: It Could Have Been My Biggest Story

By Bob Cullen

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the year in which humanity finally cured cancer. Readers of today’s obituary pages may doubt this. But I know about the anniversary because I broke the cancer cure story for the Associated Press. Forty years later, alas, my story remains unmatched. The experience taught me a valuable lesson about journalism.

John Simonds and John Fennell: The Books That Made Me Want to be a Journalist

By Mike Feinsilber

John Simonds went from Midwest to East to Far West in a career that ranged from writing obituaries in Indiana to serving as the ombudsman for a newspaper in Hawaii. Just as varied is the list of books that influenced him along the way.

“An early useful book for me was A Treasury of Great Reporting by Louis L. Snyder and Richard B. Morris. An anthology of distinguished pieces by journalists, it remains a work that is instructive and inspiring. People looking for impressive examples and worthy role models will find plenty to consider.

What an Editor Can’t Learn from the World’s Greatest Sushi Chef

By Jack Limpert

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a charming documentary film about an 85-year-old chef who runs a Tokyo restaurant that serves the world’s best sushi. The visuals and music are wonderful to see and hear, but I couldn’t help thinking about what an editor could learn from how Jiro Ono produces such consistent high quality. I kept thinking that running a restaurant is a little like running a magazine: You’re offering something to the public that you hope they’ll enjoy and they’ll think is worth the money, and your success depends on word of mouth and repeat business.

Jill Lawrence, Bob Cullen, Steve Hurst: The Books That Made Me Do It

By Mike Feinsilber

Jill Lawrence cites the book that she and every political reporter stuffed into a backpack during the campaign of 2000 as the most influential in her career. That would be Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes: The Way to the White House.

“Politics is psychodrama with profound consequences, and this book got as deep into the truth of that as anything else I’ve ever read,” she says in an email. “I had always thought about and tried to cover politics in a humanistic, almost narrative way, and this book cemented my resolve to do that.”

“We would go months without bathing, except when we could stand naked among each other…”

By Jack Limpert

Those words are how Jim Webb, before he became Secretary of the Navy and then a United States Senator, started his 1979 Washingtonian magazine article “Women Can’t Fight.” The story caused Webb endless headaches as the Naval Academy graduate and former Marine Corps officer in Vietnam became more political and had to first face congressional hearings and then take part in them as the Democratic senator from Virginia.

Contrast what Webb wrote 33 years ago with this new look at the subject of women in combat, described below in an e-mail from Foreign Affairs magazine.