Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: The Art of Making Magazines by Victor Navasky, Evan Cornog


In this entertaining anthology, editors, writers, art directors, and publishers from such magazines as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Elle, and Harper’s draw on their varied, colorful experiences to explore a range of issues concerning their profession. Combining anecdotes with expert analysis, these leading industry insiders speak on writing and editing articles, developing great talent, effectively incorporating art and design, and the critical relationship between advertising dollars and content. They emphasize the importance of fact checking and copyediting; share insight into managing the interests (and potential conflicts) of various departments; explain how to parlay an entry-level position into a masthead title; and weigh the increasing influence of business interests on editorial decisions. In addition to providing a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the making of successful and influential magazines, these contributors address the future of magazines in a digital environment and the ongoing importance of magazine journalism. Full of intimate reflections and surprising revelations, The Art of Making Magazines is both a how-to and a how-to-be guide for editors, journalists, students, and anyone hoping for a rare peek between the lines of their favorite magazines. The chapters are based on talks delivered as part of the George Delacorte Lecture Series at the Columbia School of Journalism.
Essays include: “Talking About Writing for Magazines (Which One Shouldn’t Do)” by John Gregory Dunne; “Magazine Editing Then and Now” by Ruth Reichl; “How to Become the Editor in Chief of Your Favorite Women’s Magazine” by Roberta Myers; “Editing a Thought-Leader Magazine” by Michael Kelly; “Fact-Checking at The New Yorker” by Peter Canby; “A Magazine Needs Copyeditors Because . . . .” by Barbara Walraff; “How to Talk to the Art Director” by Chris Dixon; “Three Weddings and a Funeral” by Tina Brown; “The Simpler the Idea, the Better” by Peter W. Kaplan; “The Publisher’s Role: Crusading Defender of the First Amendment or Advertising Salesman?” by John R. MacArthur; “Editing Books Versus Editing Magazines” by Robert Gottlieb; and “The Reader Is King” by Felix Dennis


When I was younger, I really wanted to work in a magazine. I've only ever worked for a newspaper, but occasionally, I still wonder what it would be like to work in a magazine.

The Art of Making Magazines is a compilation of speeches/lectures delivered by some of the most well-known people in publishing. The topics of these lectures are very diverse so you can learn about pretty much everything there is to learn about publishing and writing and editing a magazine.

The thing about this book, though, is because it is a collection of speeches made by different people, not all pieces may be interesting or were written in a style that may be interesting for you. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Ruth Reichl's and Roberta Myers' articles. I liked Ruth Reichl's article as it's about how she went from being a restaurant critic to becoming an editor. Her stories are very fascinating and you really get a feel for what goes on behind the scenes. As for Roberta Myers' article, I liked it because I find women's magazines fascinating. There are some articles that I found quite boring, though. Sometimes it was because of the topic, but sometimes it was because of the style.

This book is very informative, overall. If you're looking for entertaining behind-the-scenes stories, ala a nonfiction version of The Devil Wears Prada, you might not find as much as you would like of that here.

Thanks to NetGalley and Columbia Journalism Review for the e-ARC.


  1. There are some really interesting stories in the articles.
  2. There are a lot of tips you can use if you want to become part of the publishing industry.
  3. There's something for everyone.


  1. Not all articles may work for everyone.

For instance, when we do a Rome issue, everybody on the staff goes to Rome.

  1. You've always wanted to work in a magazine.
  2. You like reading or watching interesting speeches.
  3. You want to know what goes into making magazines.




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