When Bill Gates Told Editors About Our Digital Future: “It Will Notice If You’re Happy or Sad or Confused.”

Bill Gates was the founder of Microsoft and for many years—before Jeff Bezos and Amazon—he was the richest man in the world. How good was his crystal ball? In 1996 he spoke to the American Society of Magazine Editors about “How New Information Technology and the Internet Is Changing the Way We Work and Communicate.”

It was in November, a few weeks after Bill Clinton won a second term as President, and Gates talked some about computers and elections. Here are excerpts from an ASME summary of his speech:

There Are No Dumb Questions

From “The Magazine Life,” a column written in 1985  by John Mack Carter, director of magazine development at Hearst:

The favorite investigative reporter of Jack Limpert, editor of the Washingtonian, is John Pekkanen.

In doing a story on emergency care in Washington, Pekkanen got to the surgeon who had operated on President Reagan after the assassination attempt.

The “dumb” question he asked the surgeon was this:

“Why did you remove the bullet from the President’s chest?”

The surgeon answered:

Dog Shows Are Like Too Much of Today’s Journalism

This year’s Best in Show had powder-puff, painstakingly coifed hair

This is the time of year for journalism awards—the National Magazine Awards in March and the Pulitzer Prizes in April—and also for the Westminster Dog Show, which last night, according to the New York Times, did this:

Flynn the bichon frisé was crowned Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night. The champion, a jovial 5-year-old, cut a striking, cloudlike figure in the ring: His powder-puff fur was painstakingly coifed, and he trotted jauntily across the floor with a step that looked almost lighter than air.

When Peter Arnett Went From News Writing to Feature Writing: “You’re Typing Too Fast”

Paul Stevens edits  Connecting, a daily email for current and former Associated Press staffers and news industry friends; he asked Peter Arnett, the prize-winning AP reporter, to write about his life as a retired journalist and his new book, We’re Taking Fire: A Reporter’s View of the Vietnam War, Tet, and the Fall of LBJ. 
Paul Stevens asked me to write something about what I’m doing these days, and the short answer to the question of how I live in my 83rdyear is that I start each morning in southern California with my dietary supplements and statins, eat my cereal doused in fat-free flax milk, read the Los Angeles Times which still has a paper version tossed on to my driveway each morning, walk along one of the neighboring beaches for an hour or so before returning home to a large glass of Napa Valley wine that helps me get through another evening of obsessing about how the Trump Administration seems intent on destroying the America where my family and I have lived for most of the past 50 years.
Yes, Paul might say, so are lots of other people your age who think as you do, but what else do you do? Well, the opportunity to make a professional difference ended for me in 2006 when I reluctantly sent my last email from Baghdad where I had spent the previous three years. I handed off my Kevlar helmet and body armor to my Iraqi assistant and took my last nerve-wracking ride to the airport. My active journalism days were over. Nothing could equal the adrenalin-pumping reporting life that a series of employers including the AP had supported over the previous fifty years.
Jumping ahead, Arnett writes about his life after the 1973 peace treaty was signed with North Vietnam and Wes Gallagher, head of the AP, brought him back to its New York headquarters to write features.

Gallagher assigned me to “the poet’s corner” at 50 Rock, where among the talented team were AP legends Saul Pett and Hugh Mulligan. My first story was an in-depth look at the magazine industry. My research assembled, I sat down to write the story.

Opening Little Windows in That Wall Between Editorial and Advertising

Headlines on page one of today’s Washington Post:

Israel strikes after jet crashes

Trump calls for ‘due process’ in abuse cases

Trump reaps benefits when bad things befall others

Natural pain killer or addictive killer?


The first four headlines are editorial, the last is a bottom-of-page-one-ad for an MGM gambling casino on the Potomac River north of Washington. It promises $5 to $10,000 guaranteed weekly cash and freeplay prize giveaways until March 1. COLD HARD CASH-DAILY PLAY-DAILY WINS.

Remembering a Good Editor and the Great Old Days of Print Journalism

Henry Fortunato after leaving DC for Kansas City.

Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle fondly remembers Henry Fortunato, a Washington magazine editor who “reinvented himself as the impresario of programming at the Kansas City Public Library.”  Von Drehle ends the appreciation: “Life is lived in communities, though, and communities must have spirit. I’ve been lucky to live the past quarter-century in two communities—D.C. and K.C.—where the spirit is livelier because Henry walked in.”

Creativity in Journalism Has Its Limits

“Frank Harris told the truth only when his attention flagged.”
—Max Beerbohm

I once edited a very good feature writer who had some of Frank Harris’s creativity. He did well at newspapers and at our magazine until he was deposed in a lawsuit—the plaintiff’s lawyer asked him more good questions about how he had reported the story than his editors had asked.

The writer moved on to television, the editors kept their jobs.

Remembering My Dad’s First Plane Ride and the Day the Music Died

By Wesley G. Pippert

February 2, 1959. I was a correspondent for United Press International (then still the United Press) in Pierre, South Dakota, and there was a break of a few days in the biennial session of the South Dakota legislature. I’m from Mason City, Iowa, about 400 miles from Pierre, and my father still lived there on the family farm where he was born. He had never flown so I thought during the legislature’s break I would take him on a plane ride.

The View From 80: Looking Back at Writing, Editing, and Life

Doris Grumbach.

From The Pleasure of Their Company, written by Doris Grumbach as she was turning 80. It was her last book: On July 12, she will be 100.

John Ruskin wrote: “The great thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and to tell what it saw in a plain way. . . To see clearly is poetry, philosophy and religion all in one.” And I suppose, if I were presumptuous, I would add: “to tell it plainly is good writing.”

For me rewriting is a process of reduction, an adoption of the “lessness” of the material. In The Periodic Table Primo Levi describes it well, although he was writing about a chemical process in which he was engaged:

Then and Now: Government Official Buys Stock in a Company He (or She) Regulates!

Russell and Aileen Train in Washington in 2004. Photo from Washington Life magazine.

(CNN) Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned Wednesday, a day after Politico reported Fitzgerald’s purchase of tobacco stock after she took the position at the nation’s top public health agency.

Congratulations, Politico—government officials buying stock in companies they regulate is a good story and there should be consequences.