Looking Back: When editors get too important to do any editing

Back in the 1980s and ’90s I was on the board of the American Society of Magazine Editors and went to New York City for regular lunch meetings. Most of the 15 or so ASME board members edited magazines that were part of Hearst, Conde Nast, and the other big media companies. And many of the editors were talkers who were used to being the most important talker at any lunch meeting.

I’ve always been a note-taker and on the day of one board meeting I rushed up to New York City with plenty of note paper but no pencils or pens. I was like a chain-smoker with no cigarettes. As we stood and talked before the luncheon, I asked various editors if they had a spare pencil. Not a chance, though one offered to let me borrow his Mark Cross pen. My reading on the ASME board meetings was that most big-time editors didn’t do much editing of stories or listening and taking notes.

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