American Studies

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker 7

In 1985, soon after the New Yorker was sold, Shawn wrote a “Notes and Comment” piece designed to defend the magazine’s editorial position against possible encroachments by the new ownership, and to reassure the magazine’s readers. “We, the editorial people,” he ex¬plained, “knew by instinct that to be able to make the New Yorker the magazine we wanted it to ... Read More »

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker 6

The second item of interest is a comment on an announcement by the Saturday Evening Post of its plan to reduce circulation from nearly seven million readers to three million: “The Post will focus on the prime markets, forget the rest,” the announcement said. The “Notes and Comment” writer has great, derisory fun with this con¬cept of limiting circulation to ... Read More »

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker 5

After the 1920s, the New Yorker began running cartoons on most of its covers. During the thirties the drawings tended to be composed of stock elements of upper-class life: doormen, butlers, chauffeurs, mink-stoled Park Avenue matrons, top-hatted clubmen—occasionally thrown into discomfiting contact with the lower orders. When the war began, the magazine executed one of its canny repositionings. Domestic circulation ... Read More »

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker 4

“Talk” reflects Ross’s hatred of knowingness, which is indeed the bane of much of the higher journalism in America. The tales of Ross’s ignorance have been told often enough—that he once queried “William Blake” in a manuscript; that he asked a fact checker whether Moby Dick was the captain or the whale. The sto¬ries get repeated in part because a ... Read More »

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker 3

Then the weather turned. In the summer and fall of 1925, Katharine White (then Katharine Angell), Janet Flanner, the artists Peter Arno and Helen Hokinson, and the fashion writer Lois Long all came on. Issues began selling out. By Christmas, advertising contracts had been signed with B. Altman and Saks. In 1926, E. B. White, a disenchanted adman, was hired. ... Read More »

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker 2

This explains the panic that many New Yorker writers and editors felt when the magazine was purchased by S. I. Newhouse in 1985, and that some of them expressed rather hysterically when New¬house replaced Shawn with Gottlieb two years later. For two gener¬ations the Fleischmann family had run the New Yorker almost wholly benignly. (They were not, strictly speaking, the ... Read More »

A Friend Writes: The Old New Yorker

No one who wrote about William Shawn’s New Yorker—the magazine that Shawn edited from 1952, when he was named to succeed its original editor, Harold Ross, until 1987, when he was replaced by Robert Gottlieb, the maga¬zine now always referred to as “the old New Yorker’—ever failed to give offense. Sometimes, of course, offense was intended. When you have a ... Read More »

The Last Emperor: William S. Paley 4

The networks were anxious not just about politicians. They were anxious about everybody. Advertisers might take offense: “There should be no statement or situation in conflict with One-A-Day multiple vitamins,” decreed the advertising agency for Miles Labo¬ratories. (Miles Laboratories was sponsoring The Flintstones.) Pow¬erful interest groups might take offense: for years, the American Medical Association advised the networks on medical ... Read More »

The Last Emperor: William S. Paley 3

The man who had the most to say about the way in which televi¬sion was to enter the culture was not Paley but Paley’s rival, NBC’s David Sarnoff. NBC was the broadcasting arm of RCA, of which Sarnoff was the president. RCA also had a manufacturing arm, which produced television sets—sets engineered, as it happened, to receive twelve VHF channels ... Read More »

The Last Emperor: William S. Paley 2

Americans who grew up in the postwar era are so accustomed to television as a fixture in their lives that its presence seems almost a dispensation of nature. Virtually everyone’s memory of it is the same. If you had a set in 1955, it had twelve VHF (very high fre¬quency) channels, all except three of which probably broadcast static—unless, by ... Read More »