Questions That Embarrass an Editor

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.09.51 AM

The magazine made Ann go through a makeover—she preferred her college girl look.

The most painful question comes from the writer you’ve pushed hard to get a story in by a certain date. The writer delivers, you get tied up for two or three days dealing with publishing problems, and you run into the writer, who asks, “How’d you like my piece?” You feel you’ve wounded the writer when you admit you haven’t read it.

The most memorable embarrassing question came from the Washingtonian’s managing editor.

I had hired a talented young writer who was very attractive. Good clips, great personality, and we thought because she didn’t look much older than a teenager that she could do a good story on drug use among teens.

Here’s how Ann Zimmerman, the writer, remembers it:

“It was a possible cover story and it was very long. And I was a slow typist. So I wrote it in longhand and was going to pay someone to type it. But you wanted to see a draft before the typing was done and I had no choice but to turn in a draft in longhand.”

The story went to Margaret Cheney, the magazine’s managing editor, who soon appeared at my office door. She wasn’t smiling when she asked, “Jack, did you ask Ann if she could type?”

Who asks writers if they can type?

Ann went on to a good career at the Dallas Times Herald from 1981 to 1991, the Dallas Observer from 1991 to 2000, and the Wall Street Journal from 2000 to the end of 2013. At the Journal, she covered the retail industry, with primary focus on Walmart.

Her Washington memories include working with Kitty Kelley, then a Washingtonian writer, now a best-selling author, on a special section on beauty—that was when we made Ann give up her college girl looks for a beauty makeover. She also did a cover story—”Don’t Let Your Daughter Grow Up to be a Model”—that exposed how some modeling schools and agencies charged high fees without doing much to help young women find modeling jobs. The story chronicled some unsavory practices behind the glamorous façade of professional modeling—photographers demanding sexual favors in exchange for assignments.

By then Ann turned in her stories typed.

Speak Your Mind