Dear David, et al.--
I understand that John McPhee is a nonfiction legend. I also understand that he really likes lacrosse. But after publishing McPhee's paean to the game earlier this year, did you really need to have him tackle the subject again--just two months later--in a piece that almost certainly wouldn't be gracing your pages if it didn't carry McPhee's byline?
As you may have heard, the front of the April 27 New Yorker stars Bo, the new White House dog.
When this fact was brought to my attention, my first thought was: Damn, the New Yorker loves their Obama covers! And so they do. In the span of fourteen months, we've had Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in bed together, reaching for the red phone (March 17 '08); Barack and Michelle Obama giving each other the terrorist fist jab (July 21 '08); Barack and Joe Biden brawling with John McCain and Sarah Palin (October 27 '08); the post-election "O" over the Lincoln Memorial (November 17 '08); Barack as George Washington (January 26 '09); a solitary Obama walking toward the White House between (symbolically represented) Red and Blue America (January 19 '09) and Michelle as the star of fashion week (March 16 '09).
Earlier today I sat down with Ken Auletta, author of the New Yorker's "Annals of Communications" column, before his appearance at Harvard's Shorenstein Center. We covered a fair amount of ground: topics discussed include his upcoming book on the future of media; whether newspaper traditionalists should be excited about Amazon's Kindle 2.
Coming up with a satisfactory definition of who's a journalist is tricky. But as the New Yorker's George Packer notes, to devastating effect, identifying non-journalists is easier. And Sean Penn, who recently wrote some pro-Venezuela/pro-Cuba agitprop for the Nation, is a most definitely a non-journalist.
In which I discuss the conflict of interest in Henry Louis Gates's recent New Yorker piece and praise Chuck Turner's crisis-management skills.