"I am a fanatic about magazines. I believe they will be here until the end of time. Nothing will take their place." — Herbert R. Mayes, onetime editor of McCall's, among other magazines, in a 1963 speech.
"If the circulation of a popular magazine is to be maintained, a certain portion of its contents must, no doubt, be distasteful to its editor as a rational person. That which delights him as an editor will often be revolting to him as a human being." — The Bookman magazine, 1908.
Today would have been the 99th birthday of Joseph J. Thorndike, a managing editor of Life magazine and later editorial director and editor, respectively, of the hardcover magazines American Heritage and Horizon. Thorndike was born July 29, 1913 in Peabody, Massachusetts. He died in 2005 at age 92.
Thorndike is the subject of a 2009 memoir by his son, John Thorndike, "The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer's."
"A great magazine which mirrors contemporary life and thought to millions of thinking Americans, demands to be edited not from any sectarian, biased or provincial point of view. Its realism must be sound, its romance vital and convincing, its philosophy sane. It must present the world—the whole world—as it truly is." — Harry Burton Payne, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, 1932.
The popular gossip columnist O. O. McIntyre called Burton, who also edited McCall's for a time, "the most self-effacing of the big shot editors." Burton succeeded the more flamboyant and famous Ray Long at Cosmopolitan in 1931. Both Burton and Long, coincidentally, were suicides.
"Many editors have been made targets of abuse because they have tried to point out to authors wherein their manuscripts fell short. Some writers do not desire criticism; others feel above it.... Editors are generally busy men. Authors are often sensitive or obstinate. And so, as a natural result, we have the printed slip." — William H. Hills, editor of The Writer magazine, 1906.
Incidentally, according to news reports yesterday, The Writer is, after 125 years, going "on hiatus." We will hope for its speedy return.
On this day (July 26) in 1956, The American Magazine announced that it would cease publication after 80 years, with its August issue. It had been founded in 1876 as Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly and went through several wildly different editorial incarnations in the decades that followed, including muckraking in the early 20th century and cheerleading for big business in the years leading up to the Great Depression. At the end it was more of a general-interest title, with reported circulation of 2-plus million.
"A great abstract force governing our present journalism is a conceptualized picture of the reader. The reader, in this view, is a person stupider than the editor whom the editor both fears and patronizes." — writer Mary McCarthy, in a prospectus for a new magazine, quoted by Dwight Macdonald in his book "Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain" (1962). Macdonald was the editor of several influential journals and served a brief stint at Time and Fortune magazines.
It was on this day (July 24) in 1949 that the body of Norbert Lusk, film critic and onetime editor of the movie magazine Picture-Play, was discovered in his Forest Hills, N.Y., apartment, after his friend and by-then benefactor Joan Crawford reported him missing. Lusk had apparently died the day before. The gossip columnist Louella Parsons later wrote, "What a wonderful friend Joan was to 'Norbie,' and long after he had lost his important jobs and others forgot him. He once told me he worshipped the ground she walked on."
"The average editor is obsessed with the idea of 'giving the public what it wants,' whereas, in fact, the public, while it knows what it wants when it sees it, cannot clearly express its wants, and never wants the thing that it does ask for, although it thinks it does at the time. But woe to the editor and his periodical if he heeds that siren voice!" — Edward Bok, longtime editor of Ladies' Home Journal, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1921 memoir, "The Americanization of Edward Bok."
Tomorrow, in our final installment: S.S. McClure gets the last word on the topic.