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The New Yorker

From Academic Kids

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The New Yorker's first cover, which is reprinted each year on the magazine's anniversary. The image comes from the 2004 cover.

The New Yorker is a weekly American magazine that publishes criticism, essays, investigative reporting, and fiction. Although ostensibly it focuses on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside of New York due to the quality of its journalism. Its cosmopolitan, urbane character is accentuated by its "Talk of the Town" section, which offers breezy commentaries on New York life, popular culture, and eccentric Americana, and the dry wit of its short humorous sketches and famous cartoons. In the mid-20th century, it popularized the short story as a literary form. Within the journalism profession, The New Yorker enjoys the reputation of having the finest fact-checking and copyediting teams in the publishing industry.

The New Yorker debuted on February 21, 1925. It was founded by Harold Ross, who wanted to create a sophisticated humor magazine—in contrast to the corniness of other humor publications such as Judge, which he had worked for, or Life. Ross partnered with entrepreneur Raoul Fleishmann to establish the F-R Publishing Company and established the magazine's first offices at 25 West Forty-fifth Street in Manhattan. Ross would continue to edit the magazine until his death in 1951. For the first, occasionally precarious, years of its existence, the magazine prided itself on its cosmopolitan sophistication that was "Not for the little old lady from Dubuque." The magazine's first cover, of a dandy peering at a butterfly through a monocle, was drawn by Rea Irvin, who also designed the font the magazine uses for its nameplate and headlines. The character, which became the magazine's mascot, was named "Eustace Tilley" by Corey Ford.

While the magazine never lost its touches of humor, The New Yorker soon established itself as a preeminent forum for "serious" journalism and fiction. Shortly after the end of World War II, John Hersey's essay Hiroshima filled an entire issue. In subsequent decades the publication published short stories by many of the most respected writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Ann Beattie, Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, and John Updike. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" received more mail after publication than any other story in the New Yorker's history. In its early decades, the magazine sometimes published two or even three short stories a week, but in recent years the pace has remained steady at one story per issue. While some styles and themes recur more often than others in New Yorker fiction, the magazine's stories are marked less by uniformity than by their variety, and they have ranged from Updike's introspective domestic narratives to the surrealism of Donald Barthelme and from parochial accounts of the lives of neurotic New Yorkers to stories set in a wide range of locations and eras and translated from many languages.

The New Yorker's cartoons have a reputation for being slightly bourgeois, surreal and often inscrutable. One popular stereotype is that the cartoons have punchlines so non sequitur that they are impossible to understand. (This stereotype once inspired an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld.) However, the cartoons remain quite popular, implying that there is a substantial constituency of readers who enjoy them and find them funny. In addition, certain contemporary New Yorker cartoonists such as Roz Chast break this mold, using humor that almost any reader would find accessible.

Traditionally, the magazine's politics have been essentially liberal and non-partisan. However, in recent years, the editorial staff has been taking a somewhat more partisan stance. In its November 1, 2004 issue, the magazine broke with 80 years of precedent and issued a formal endorsement of the Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry in an unsigned lead editorial.

The non-fiction feature articles (which usually make up the bulk of the magazine's content) are known for covering an eclectic array of topics. Recent subjects have included eccentric evangelist Creflo Dollar, the different ways in which humans perceive the passage of time, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the magazine hired investigative journalist Seymour Hersh to report on military and security issues, and he has produced a number widely-reported articles on the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation by US forces. His revelations in the pages of The New Yorker about abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison and Pentagon contingency plans for invading Iran were reported around the world.

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Example of former semicolon usage from issue of October 27, 1980. On the third line, the semicolon after "cormorants" appears before the closing quotation mark.

One unusual feature of the magazine's in-house style is the placement of diaeresis marks in words with repeating vowels—such as reëlected and coöperate—in which the two vowel letters indicate different vowel sounds. The magazine does not put titles of plays or books in italics, but simply sets them off with quotation marks. Formerly, when a word or phrase in quotation marks came at the end of a phrase or clause that ended with a semicolon, the semicolon would be put before the trailing quotation mark; now, however, the magazine follows the usual American punctuation style and puts the semicolon after the second quotation mark.

The current editor of The New Yorker is David Remnick. Previous editors, in addition to Ross, have been William Shawn (1951-1987), Robert Gottlieb (1987-1992) and Tina Brown (1992-1998). It was acquired by Advance Publications in 1985, the media company owned by S.I. Newhouse.

A New Yorker look-alike called Novy Ochevidets (The New Eyewitness) was launched in Russia in 2004. It folded in January 2005 after five months of circulation.

Contributors

Well-known contributors have included:

Books

  • Ross and the New Yorker by Dale Kramer (1951)
  • The Years with Ross by James Thurber (1959)
  • Ross, the New Yorker and Me by Jane Grant (1968)
  • Here at the New Yorker by Brendan Gill (1975)
  • About the New Yorker and Me by E.J. Kahn (1979)
  • Onward and Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White by Linda H. Davis (1987)
  • At Seventy: More about the New Yorker and Me by E.J. Kahn (1988)
  • Katherine and E.B. White: An Affectionate Memoir by Isabell Russell (1988)
  • Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the New Yorker by Thomas Kunkel (1997)
  • Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing by Ved Mehta (1998)
  • Here But Not Here: My Life with William Shawn and the New Yorker by Lillian Ross (1998)
  • The World Through a Monocle: The New Yorker at Midcentury by Mary F. Corey (1999)
  • Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker, by Renata Adler (2000)
  • Letters from the Editor: The New Yorker's Harold Ross edited by Thomas Kunkel (2000; letters covering the years 1917 to 1951)
  • Defining New Yorker Humor by Judith Yaross Lee (2000)
  • NoBrow: The Culture of Marketing - the Marketing of Culture by John Seabrook (2000)
  • New Yorker Profiles 1925-1992: A Bibliography compiled by Gail Shivel (2000)
  • About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made by Ben Yagoda (2000)
  • A Life of Privilege, Mostly by Gardner Botsford (2003)
  • Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker by Angela Bourke (2004)

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