The editor of The New Yorker on helping writers find their voice

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to another of our “Brief But Spectacular” episodes. Tonight, we hear from David Remnick, editor of “The New Yorker.” He describes how the magazine has changed over the years.

DAVID REMNICK, Editor, The New Yorker: I think people’s awareness has to begin at some point, some weird influence that gets them going that makes them enter the world. For me, it was listening to Bob Dylan. I bought my first album. It was called “The Best of ’66,” and it had a song called “I Want You” by Bob Dylan.

I was six years old. I didn’t know what he wanted exactly but it resonated with me. You guys are fancy, I got to tell you.

I have been the editor of “The New Yorker” magazine since 1998 and I’ve been a writer here since 1992. It’s changed from being the editor of a weekly print magazine to now a web site, radio show, a television show, floor wax, dessert topping, we’re everything.

“The New Yorker Radio Hour” is a program that’s both on terrestrial radio and a podcast. Now podcast and radio is renaissance, just as television is in many ways. And if “The New Yorker Radio Hour” is in the thick of that renaissance, I’m very happy.

Editing is a really complicated process. Get the writer to do the best form of the writer’s version of the piece. An editor who is obnoxious, in my mind, is the kind of editor that said winkingly, that’s kind of my piece. That’s just not what’s done here.

The greatest feeling of satisfaction is to run across somebody young who has something new to say and saying it in a different way and help that person in some subtle way get to be himself or herself, that is thrilling.

Not everybody does everything at the highest level. I don’t expect an investigative report to necessarily be the next sense and sensibility. What you want is to be accurate and deep and clear.

My editor up in New York, when I write, the rare times that I write is a guy named Henry Fender (ph). He might say something like this — very good things here — and if that happens, I know we’re in for a long ride.

Everybody does his or her job in a moment in time. My moment in time is not only to make the magazine as great as it possibly can be but help us cross this technological and even financial roaring river of change. The Internet is at the center of everybody’s attention and how we come into people’s households or palms or field division has changed radically and I have to leave a “New Yorker” that’s got its soul as well as its technological act together.

I’m David Remnick and this is my “Brief but Spectacular” view of “The New Yorker.”

HARI SREENIVASAN: You can watch additional “Brief But Spectacular” episodes at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

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