You Can’t Please Everyone—Especially Not All the Writers

By Jack Limpert

I edited The Washingtonian for 40 years and every few years a writer from another publication would call to say that he or she was doing a piece about us and sometimes they’d have talked with one or more writers who were unhappy us. I recently came across a file on one of those situations: A writer who we’d parted with, not amicably, called to say he was doing a story for a competing magazine about us.

After a testy opening conversation with the writer, I decided not to cooperate and sent him a note that included these two grafs:

“No, I don’t want to talk about the nasty things people are saying. We’re in a situation in which, for better or worse, you have been pegged as a disaffected former writer who is out to do a hatchet job on the magazine.

“As for the disaffected writers you say you’ve found, I can only say that writers like to be published, and there are a lot of them, as you know, that we haven’t published. My implicit contract with the reader tells me to edit the best magazine I can every month—the best reporting, the best writing, the best thinking, with as little BS or preaching or unfairness as can manage. We’re not perfect with writers—nor are writers perfect with us. But we approach every story with good faith and enthusiasm, and if it doesn’t work out, I feel bad, too. But my obligation is to the reader, not the writer.”
The year was 1987, the other magazine was Regardie’s, and the disaffected writer had an Irish temper.


  1. Jack Limpert says

    A reader asks: Did he write the piece, was it published, was it a slam job?

    I’m pretty sure it was not published. Regardie’s was a business magazine and they may have decided that tensions between editors and writers would not have been that interesting to its audience.

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