Evergreen Advice for Editors: Keep a Sense of Wonder

Arnold Gingrich on the only priceless ingredient of editorial success.

At the risk of seeming naive, I’d place my bet on the editorial success of someone who, though grown up, could still preserve those attributes described by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

Child of the clear unclouded brow

And dreaming eyes of wonder.

The operating word is wonder. In a day of mass sophistication, of appetites jaded by affluence, of sensibilities dulled by excesses, the ability still to marvel at things oneself, and thus be able to make others marvel, is to me the only priceless ingredient of editorial success.

—From an essay by Arnold Gingrich in “Great Editors on Editing.” Gingrich created Esquire in 1933 and remained its editor until 1945. He returned as publisher in 1952, serving in that role until his death in 1976
Echoing Arnold Gingrich’s advice: In the early 1970s I was the new editor of The Washingtonian and one of my early mentors was Frank Waldrop, editor of the Washington Times-Herald until it was bought and closed by the Washington Post. Frank wrote occasionally for The Washingtonian and I talked often with him, getting insights on how to be an editor.

His best advice to a journalist new to Washington: “Don’t get too cynical or sophisticated. Keep your sense of astonishment at what you see here.”

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