Magazine article The New Yorker

Newsweekly

Magazine article The New Yorker

Newsweekly

Article excerpt

The embodied collective memory of Newsweek, a magazine once printed on paper, for almost eighty years as inevitable as Monday--and then as tangible and indispensable as last month's tweets--assembled one recent evening on the third floor of the old Herald Tribune Building, on West Fortieth Street, now occupied by the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. More Irish wake than shivah, more reunion than autopsy, the "spontaneous, grass-roots event driven by old-timers," according to Stephen Shepard, the dean of the J-school (also a Newsweek senior editor, 1976-81), was too classy for a cash bar. Instead, most of the three hundred and fifty alumni there had already paid forty-five bucks apiece, with deadbeats assured that they would eventually be hunted down.

In the CUNY newsroom, flat-screen televisions looped images of momentous Newsweek covers, photographs, and layouts. A consensus held that the spread of hors d'oeuvres (grilled-lamb skewers, sesame-crusted ahi tuna) would have passed muster at Top of the Week, the I. M. Pei-designed dining room in the magazine's erstwhile Madison Avenue headquarters, where, from the early-"Mad Men" era (when the Washington Post Company bought the magazine) through the Clinton years, bow-tied catering remained a sacrosanct line item and booze was still regarded as a nutritional essential, one consequence of which was that staff members occasionally entertained sexual fantasies about one another.

The speeches were mostly brief, generally funny, and plainly heartfelt. Ed Kosner, who became the magazine's editor in 1975, began: "This is the first chance I've had to speak to the assembled staff of Newsweek since the morning of June 27, 1979, the day after Kay Graham"--the Post's publisher--"fired me." For Dorinda Elliott, the daughter of Kosner's predecessor, Osborn Elliott--known as Oz--and herself a Newsweek correspondent for fifteen years, primarily in Asia, "it was a world that was larger than life. My sisters remember throwing up in the back seat as Kay Graham drove Oz and my family to the train station after a weekend on her farm. Vice-President L.B.J. had shown up for lunch. Just another day in the life of a Newsweek editor." Both Elliott and Susan Fraker, a former senior editor and the widow of Maynard Parker (editor, 1982-98), gave shout-outs to Lynn Povich. In addition to putting in twenty-five years at the magazine, helping to organize the party, and being married to Steve Shepard, Povich is the author of "The Good Girls Revolt," a memoir and history of how a lawsuit by a group of Newsweek women in the early seventies forced management to stop treating female employees as if it were still the forties (a problem that had been solved, in other words, by the time Tina Brown took over, in 2010). …

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