Three Editors Meet for Lunch: What I Could Tell Them About the Old Days But Won’t

After the holidays I’m having lunch with two other editors—the one in his 40s edits a magazine, the one in his 60s edited a newspaper and now teaches at a J school. I’m in my 80s and edited newspapers and then the Washingtonian magazine.

Three generations and how different our lives in journalism have been.

In 1952 I graduated from a small-town Wisconsin high school just as the world was changing in so many ways. We had gone through the Depression and World War Two. Our world was mostly shaped by radio and newspapers—television was emerging but in 1952 there was little to watch beyond the Ed Sullivan show.

The Challenge of Writing Good Book Titles and Feature Story Headlines

John le Carre’s next novel, his 25th, will be published next October. The book’s arguably uninteresting title?

Agent Running in the Field.

The titles of novels, like the heds on feature stories, are a challenge for editors. One famous writer-editor disagreement was between author F. Scott Fitzgerald and book editor Max Perkins. After Fitzgerald finished his most famous novel he wanted the title to be Trimalchio in West Egg.

After much discussion, Perkins convinced Fitzgerald that Trimalchio in West Egg was too vague, uninteresting, and hard to pronounce and the book became The Great Gatsby.

The Virtues of Restraint and Modesty: Rare Now in Politics, Also in Journalism

From “The speech George H. W. Bush didn’t give may be his most important,” in a leadership column by Jena McGregor in today’s Washington Post business section:

Since the passing Friday of George H.W. Bush, there have been many recollections of the most famous lines or most memorable speeches by the 41st president. His “thousand points of light” remark from his acceptance and inaugural speeches was used by the current White House to celebrate the former commander in chief just months after President Trump openly ridiculed it. Bush’s “read my lips” promise got pulled into round-up after round-up of the former president’s most famous sayings.

Learning to Be a Reporter: “Get the Story, Stuff the Opposition”

British editor Alan Rusbridger at his first newspaper job at the Cambridge Evening News:

The newspaper was owned by one Lord Iliffe of Yatttendon, a largely absent figure who owned a 9,000-acre estate 100 miles away in Berkshire. More important to me was Fulton Gillespie, the chief reporter, known as Jock—a growling silver-haired Glaswegian with dark glasses and the stub of a cigar permanently lodged between bearded lips.

Jock  became my personal tutor. He was not a graduate, but a coal miner’s son who had left school with no certificates of any kind and had started work as an apprentice printer. . . .

Clickbait of the Year Finalist: Slate Says George H.W. Bush’s Dog Is Too Dumb to Miss Him

After this photo of George H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully, with the slug “Mission Complete,” went viral, Slate writer Ruth Graham made one of the great counter-narrative moves in the history of digital journalism with a piece headlined, “Don’t Spend Your Emotional Energy on Sully H.W. Bush.”

The key graf:

AP Memories of Bush 41: “No more decent, honorable, and genuinely nice man ever occupied the Presidency.”

A note Bush sent to AP photographer Mark Duncan thanking him for this picture.

From Connecting, a daily newsletter compiled by Paul Stevens for current and former AP journalists.

Remembering this genuinely nice man’s personal attributes

From Carl P. Leubsdorf –  I first met George Bush on a fall day in 1970, as he toured Texas, campaigning for the U.S. Senate in his chartered DC-3. The lanky, youthful looking Houston congressman struck me as open and friendly, moderate in manner and approach.

President George H.W. Bush Had a Sense of Humor and He Loved Dogs

George H.W. Bush went from being a war hero to a President and much more; he also had a sense of humor. Here’s a 1989 Bush dog story that involved the Washingtonian.


By Jack Limpert

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One morning, before going to work, I was walking Lindy, our Golden Retriever.  I stopped to talk with a neighbor who was walking her Springer Spaniel. When I said something nice about her dog, she began to talk about the virtues of Springer Spaniels and she mentioned that her dog was a lot better looking than Millie, President George H.W. Bush’s dog. I’m not sure she called Millie ugly but she didn’t think the President’s dog was a good representative of the breed.

Does President Trump’s Tough Guy Talk Come From His Mob Connections in New York?

The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher, in a weekend Outlook piece, writes that “Trump borrows his rhetoric—and his view of power—from the mob. The opening grafs:

President Trump’s reaction to a new guilty plea Thursday from his longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was predictably pugnacious: Cohen, one of Trump’s strongest defenders for more than a decade, was “a weak person and not a very smart person.” Asked why he had kept such a character on his payroll for so many years, the president sounded like a parody of a lousy mob movie: “Because a long time ago, he did me a favor.”

When Newspapers Went From Neighborhood Kids to Strangers in Speeding SUVs

Where is today’s Washington Post?

The Washington Post under Amazon’s Jeff Bezos continues to push digital growth—see Digiday on “How the Washington Post is reorienting for digital subscriptions.”  A spokesperson is quoted as saying the Post’s “subscriber base has more than tripled in size over the past two years”—subscriber base meaning digital readers. Digiday says the Post declined to share hard numbers; in October 2017, the Post said that “it had amassed 1 million subscribers.” How many people read the Post as a print newspaper? It’s hard to tell. The Bezos-owned Post is a private company that doesn’t have to report to stockholders or the SEC. In 2013 the paper said it had 377,466 daily print readers and 568,365 Sunday readers. Five years later are 200,000 readers sticking with the daily newspaper?

“A writer cannot really grasp what he has written. It is not like a building or a sculpture. . .”

There is a feeling Faulkner probably had—I have had it myself—that somewhere the true life is being lived, though not where you are. He may have heard the sound of it in Greenville, the rich, destructive roar not of places such as he had known but of ones far more potent. Something in him responded to that, the same thing most likely that had made him pose as an officer in the Royal Flying Corps, invent combat missions, crashes, a silver plate in his head. He was a small man. He could sit in a chair and his feet sometimes might not touch the floor. His world was small, an illiterate county seat, a backward state, though from it he fashioned something greater, far greater perhaps than he even knew. A writer cannot really grasp what he has written. It is not like a building or a sculpture; it cannot be seen whole. It is only a kind of smoke seized and printed on a page.