A Great College Coach on How to Really Be Educated

By Jack Limpert


Al McGuire knew there was a lot of real life outside the college classroom.

“I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cabdriver. Then they would really be educated.”

—Al McGuire, college basketball coach whose Marquette team won a national championship.
During five years of occasionally attending classes at the University of Wisconsin, I tended bar on nights and weekends, serving drinks at places from country clubs to shot-and-a-beer bars. I made good money, met a lot of people, and ended up agreeing with Al McGuire that you often can learn more walking around behind the bar than sitting in a classroom.

What I Learned from 40 Years of Editorial Meetings

By Jack Limpert

Three people: The best.

Four people: Usually good.

Five people: Sometimes good.

Six people: Rarely good.

Seven or more people: Almost always a waste of time.


The Secret Newspapers Keep from Readers

By Mike Feinsilber

Magazines do it, upfront in a letter from the editor or in a note at the start or end of stories. Books do it either on the inside or the back of the jacket. The New Yorker does it on a “Contributors” page, which also gives subtle plugs for the books written by the authors of its articles.

But newspapers don’t do it.

Why not? Why don’t newspapers carry a paragraph in italics at the end of articles identifying the articles’ authors and their specialties and saying what makes the writers qualified to write so authoritatively about their subjects?

What Editors Will Do to Sell Magazines: First We Find a Cute Baby…

By Jack Limpert

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In 1982, this baby just had to avoid stress to live to be 100.

This week’s double-issue of Time has a cute baby on the cover with a head that says: “This Baby Could Live to be 142 Years Old.”

Wow, I thought, that’s pretty impressive longevity considering that back in 1982 we did a Washingtonian cover with a cute baby and a head that said “THIS BABY CAN LIVE TO BE 100.”

From 1982 to 2015—32 years—magazines have added 42 years to our life span.

E.B. White, More Than 60 Years Ago, on How New Technologies Change Reading and Writing


Essayist E.B. White and his dog Minnie.

“In schools and colleges, in these audio-visual days, doubt has been raised as to the future of reading—whether the printed word is on its last legs. One college president has remarked that in fifty years ‘only five percent of the people will be reading.’ For this, of course, one must be prepared. But how prepare? To us it would seem that even if only one person out of a hundred and fifty million should continue as a reader, he would be the one worth saving, the nucleus around which to found a university….

A Garage Is Where You Park Your Car? Not Here in the Nation’s Capital

By Jack Limpert

Drinking coffee with a few DC journalists this morning we talked about the eight inches of snow expected overnight and I mentioned that one difference between Washington and Wisconsin, where I grew up, was that in Wisconsin we put our car in the garage. In our Washington neighborhood, every house has a garage but it’s a storage area—usually with barely enough room to walk. The cars are in the driveway or out on the street.

RIP David Wiessler: “I Never Again Worked With His Equal”


David and Judy Wiessler: She was the managing editor, he wanted an assignment.

David Wiessler, a longtime Washington journalist, political junkie, and baseball fan, died early Saturday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he was being treated for an internal infection. He was 72.

Wiessler worked briefly for U.S. News & World Report and for Bloomberg News Service, but the bulk of his career was traditional wire service work, at United Press International and at Reuters. He joined UPI’s Dallas bureau in 1966, transferred to its headquarters in New York in 1969, and was promoted to Washington in 1973.

Editorial Bulletin Board Notes

“Change is a dragon. You can ignore it, which is futile. You can fight it, in which case you will lose. Or you can ride it.”
—Old proverb, probably from China
“The press is fair. The media are not.”
—William Safire on singulars and plurals
“There is a point at which methods devour themselves.”
—Frantz Fanon
“Good  design is clear thinking made visible.”
—Edward Tufts

They Were Young, They Were Low-Paid, and They Went On to Change Journalism

RIP David Carr: 1956-2015.
Revisiting a post from March 13, 2013.

By Jack Limpert

In my second issue at The Washingtonian, back in April 1969, we ran a lively little piece, “Ben, Where Are You Hiding the Women’s Section?” It laid out how executive editor Ben Bradlee had dismantled the Washington Post’s venerable Women’s section, replacing it with the Style section, which the Post’s managing editor, Gene Patterson, said would be full of “highly gifted talent” and attract younger readers. In the next 40-plus years, we ran hundreds of pieces on the Post—big stories about Bradlee, Katharine Graham, Len Downie, and Don Graham, lots of smaller pieces, and a monthly PostWatch column that readers loved and Post editors hated.

The Best Writer I Ever Edited—and Some Good Advice from Frank Deford

By Jack Limpert

I love this quote about skill because for an editor the hardest thing to watch is a writer with lots of natural talent not working at it and trying to get better. The most talented writer I ever edited came to us after a decade of success at a big newspaper—he wrote some very nice Washingtonian pieces but nothing you’d remember in a year or five years. One day I was going to his office and I heard him on the phone say, “Yeah, it’s going okay. I’m pretty much on cruise control.” Not long after I found this quote from sportswriter Frank Deford and put it on the editorial bulletin board where it stayed for many years.