From “What, Me Worry?” to “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog”

From David Von Drehle’s column, “Mad magazine’s demise is part of the ending of a world,” in the Sunday Washington Post:

Mad’s April 1974 cover boiled the entire sensibility down into a single outrageous image: an upraised middle finger. The blowback was sufficiently intense that publisher William Gaines never went there again. But it wasn’t the readers who objected; it was our moms, dads, ministers, librarians. Our oppressors.

Remembering Art Buchwald: “If You Can Make People Laugh You Can Get All the Love You Want” 

By Barnard Law Collier

Art Buchwald in Paris.

I miss Art Buchwald.

In an era when good news is bad and bad news is good, I miss Art’s shrewd and funny discernments about which is which.

Art saw clearly through the spins and shams of life and into the heart of a story. As an observer, he agreed with Mark Twain’s advice to writers: “First get the facts, and then distort them as much as you please.”

Art’s own credo was:  “The closer I get to the fact, the more people laugh.”

Why Presidents Wrap Themselves in the Flag

From Wikipedia:

President Bush approval rating from 2001 to 2006. Spikes in approval coincide with the September 11 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

The rally ’round the flag effect (or syndrome) is a concept used in political science and international relations to explain increased short-run popular support of the President of the United States during periods of international crisis or war.[1] Because rally ’round The Flag effect can reduce criticism of governmental policies, it can be seen as a factor of diversionary foreign policy.[1]

When the Washington Post Beat the Drums for Going to War: “American Prestige Is Very Much Involved”

In 1961, newly elected President John F. Kennedy sent large numbers of U.S troops—called military advisers—to South Vietnam to help the South Vietnamese prevent a takeover by communist guerrilla fighters from North Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson then committed U.S. troops to combat after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident where the administration claimed that Northern Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked a Navy destroyer. By 1973, when U.S. military involvement ended, 58,220 U.S. soldiers had been killed, with the Vietnamese casualties estimated at well over one million.

What did the Washington Post say about our going to war in Southeast Asia?

Journalism’s Last Fifty Years in Five Paragraphs

Watergate made heroes out of Woodward and Bernstein. More young journalists wanted to be like them: Make someone resign, become rich and famous.

Henry Fairlie wrote a Washingtonian piece in 1984 about how journalists were getting rich. Get on television talk shows, get big checks by making speeches. Journalists increasingly could make big money and do just enough reporting to get by.

Oz Elliott, the former Newsweek editor, then teaching at the Columbia J School, told me that he wasn’t happy that journalists had discovered that selling attitude was a lot easier than reporting.

When You Look at the World’s Conflicts and Problems From a Long Way Away

From the June 21, 2019 New York Times section on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11—these memories were part of “50 astronauts with far-out memories: What’s it really like to live in space? The views are great. The bathroom breaks, not so much.”

Chris Cassidy: Current NASA astronaut, flew in space twice between 2009 and 2013; Navy SEAL who served several tours of duty in Afghanistan; 500th person in space.

In Praise of Publishers Who Happily Sign the Checks to Pay for Great Journalism

After reading “Saving the Nation’s Newspapers and Magazines: The More Billionaires the Better,” Barnard Law Collier adds John Hay “Jock” Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune, to the list of great publishers who enthusiastically backed great newspapers.

I worked for a “billionaire” publisher. He paid my way first class to remote and exotic places all over the Western Hemisphere just because he liked to read “compelling” stories from his New York Herald Tribune crew of roving correspondents.

His name was John Hay “Jack” Whitney, one of the world’s ten richest men in his lifetime (1904-1982).

“i’M a wRitEr, aCtuaLly!”

From a By the Book interview with Scottish crime writer Denise Mina in the New York Times Book Review:

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Three Patricia Highsmiths and a fire extinguisher.

The older I get the less I enjoy dinner parties. It’s a stiff kind of theater, the gathering, the exclamations of delight over the food, the relentless self-presentation: “i’M a wRitEr, aCtuaLly!” In fairness, I have been to a lot of them and may have blown out my taste buds with cigarettes. It feels like I’m eating dust for three hours while wearing tight pants.

Saving the Nation’s Newspapers and Magazines: The More Billionaires the Better

Texas Monthly has a new owner. The magazine says “Houston investor Randa Duncan Williams pledges to protect the magazine’s legacy and boost investments in its long-term growth.” It adds:

“Williams will be Texas Monthly’s fourth owner since its founding by Mike Levy in 1973. Levy sold the magazine to Indiana-based Emmis Communications in 1998, and that company sold it in late 2016 to Hobby.

When Editors and Art Directors Work Together

The push and pull between Clay Felker, the mercurial idea man, and Milton Glaser, the oracular, intellectual guru, would result in one of the most fruitful collaborations between an editor and an art director in the history of American magazine publishing. “Glaser edited Clay in a way,” said Pete Hamill, an early contributor to New York. “If Clay had an idea, Milton would say, ‘That’s great, but what’s the illustration going to be, what’s the headline?’ He helped Clay conceptualize notions into working ideas.”

—From The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion and the New Journalism Revolution, by Marc Weingarten.