Some Thoughts on the New Yorker, New and Old

Some Thoughts on the New Yorker, New and Old

The lengthy tenure of the old New Yorker’s editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, has been followed by the quick succession of Robert Gottlieb and Tina Brown. Both were installed by Si Newhouse, the media tycoon who bought the magazine in the 1980s.

Did the Newhouse purchase and hirings make the magazine new? Is the magazine Brown is currently editing—has been editing ever since October 5, 1992—old or new, and in what sense? The cover of that first issue, which shows a purple-haired, London-style punk, lolling in a horse carriage driven by a formally attired coachman with a slightly surprised expression, seems to propose that something new is in town—but has her first year made good on the promise?

Certainly Gottlieb made a number of appreciable changes. His casual manner, youthful interests, and informal dress, contrasting so markedly with the notoriously formal and reserved Shawn, eventually were reflected in
the magazine’s pages. Photography was introduced for the first time, along with color drawings. The “Goings on About Town” section was spruced up, with little boxed reviews and drawings. In the same consumer- friendly spirit, Gottlieb expanded the minimalist table of contents; it actually became a reliable quick guide to the magazine’s contents, as tables of contents are in most other magazines.

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