"Usually the best way to start an interview with a well-known person is to recall the worst thing you ever heard about him and ask if it is true." — Joseph Mitchell, longtime New Yorker magazine writer, in his book "My Ears Are Bent."
"The editor makes or breaks the magazine—and he is pretty sure to break it unless he is left alone to run it his own way—to impress his personality upon it and make it his own." — Cyrus Curtis, owner of such succcessful magazines as the Ladies' Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post, quoted in 1915.
On this day (April 26) in 1938, Roy E. Larsen, publisher of Life magazine, was acquitted in a Bronx, New York, court on the charge of selling obscene and indecent literature and photographs. The case involved a Life article on the birth of a baby.
"Before you go for an Editor, young man, pause and take a big think! Do not rush into the editorial harness rashly. Look around and see if there is not an omnibus to drive—some soil somewhere to be tilled—a clerkship on some meat cart to be filled—anything that is reputable and healthy, rather than going for an Editor, which is hard business at best." — Humorist Artemus Ward (1834 -1867). Ward, whose real name was Charles Farrar Browne, was also the editor of a short-lived weekly called Vanity Fair
"There is no trick in editing a magazine successfully, provided the editor has the God-given instinct. And that instinct is nothing more or less than an inherent knowledge of and sympathy with humanity at large." — editor and author William C. Lengel, 1920.
On this day (April 23) in 1938, newspapers reported that 31-year-old Charles Weiss, editor of anti-Nazi magazine Uncle Sam, published in Brooklyn, N.Y., had been attacked by four apparent Nazis the previous Friday evening. The attackers had allegedly beaten and stripped the editor and painted black swastikas on his body after he refused to kiss a Nazi flag.
On this day (April 21) in 1954, a U.S. Senate subcommittee held a hearing to examine whether violent comic books were responsible for juvenile crime. Publisher William M. Gaines defended a cover drawing on one of his comics, depicting a man with an ax holding a woman's severed head. Asked whether he considered the cover to be in good taste, Gaines testified that he did, adding that showing the woman's neck dripping blood would have been in bad taste. Gaines next found himself defending a drawing of a man choking a woman to death with a crowbar. That fall, Gaines gave up on horror titles and began to focus on a little humor comic called Mad that his company had launched two years earlier. Mad was transformed into a slick magazine in the summer of 1955, in part to put it out of reach of the repressive Comics Code that the industry had adopted after the Senate hearings.
"A passive, inert, dull magazine... is usually made up of editors who sit around and wait for writers to send them queries, or pictures, or finished pieces upon which they can react and thus fulfill themselves.... Magazine editing is not just the act of choosing, it is an act of assertion." — Harold Hayes, then editor of Esquire, in a 1964 staff memo, quoted in Carol Polsgrove's "It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, But Didn't We Have Fun? 'Esquire' in the Sixties" (W.W. Norton & Co., 1995).