Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Winning the Hearts & Minds of Writers

With editorial budgets getting tighter nearly everywhere, how can ambitious editors retain the loyalty of serious writers? Publishing consultant John Brady lets us in on a little secret: while money is of course as important to writers as it is to professionals in any other field, there are all kinds of other ways to recruit and retain good writers. In this fine
column in Folio Magazine (a trade journal for magazine professionals), he reminds editors that they can give cover bylines and write thumbnail profiles (with photos) of their best contributors. They can intercede with the publisher to pay writers upon acceptance of their pieces rather than upon publication (which can often be months later). Heck, they can even do something really radical and pay the writer a little extra for using the print version on the publication's website. Brady first came on my radar screen nearly a decade ago when I read his splendid book, The Craft of Interviewing, which remains the best book I've yet encountered on the subject. Brady is now a visiting prof at the Ohio University Journalism School. He's also consulting partners with former Clevelander Greg Paul, who was once the staff designer for the now-defunct Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine. He later designed the Cleveland Edition and has since gone on to become one of a handful of the more prominent editorial design consultants in America. I think he even did the last redesign of the strikingly handsome Christian Science Monitor tabloid format.

The Way We Think of Glamour Now. L.A. Times film critic Carina Chocano let loose with an aha moment for readers last month. In this otherwise workmanlike
essay about Hollywood and the glamour industry, she observes that what we think is glamorous today versus what we thought was glamorous in the days of Cary Grant and other earlier screen idols speaks loudly about our culture. "Glamour used to present an idealized version of adulthood," she wrote. "Now it presents an idealized version of adolescence."

Another Look at Cobra II. Some months ago, I noted an important new book that provides an eye-opening inside history of the Bush Administration's march to war: Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. Recently, Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich
rendered his verdict on the same book in the London Review of Books, and it was so good that I thought it worth recommending to your attention. He notes that the Bush team, despite its allusions to Saddam as the new Hitler, "did not see Baghdad as Berlin but as Warsaw--a preliminary objective," the first domino in its campaign to remake the Mideast as it imagined it. In order to achieve this, he writes, "everyone (domestically) had to be neutralised. In other words, unleashing American might abroad implied a radical reconfiguration of power relationships at home. On this score, 9/11 came as a godsend. The hawks, citing the urgent imperatives of national security, set out to concentrate authority in their own hands. September 11 inaugurated what became in essence a rolling coup." Congress gets plenty of fault for handing Bush a blank check. "The notorious Tonkin Gulf Resolution of 1964 was a straitjacket compared to this spacious grant of authority."

To his credit, Bacevich doesn't let Bush's predecessor off the hook for a different brand of military ignorance. Here's how he sums up the Clinton presidency as it pertained to the military: "eight years of drift and stagnation camouflaged by the vaporous talk in which the ‘Man from Hope’ specialised. With his notion of foreign policy as a variant of social work, Clinton had repeatedly misused America’s armed forces. Kowtowing to his own generals, he had failed to push through the reforms essential for perpetuating US military dominance. Beguiled by his own rhetoric about globalisation, he had ignored threats brewing in East Asia and the Middle East. In the Clinton years, American power had atrophied even as new dangers proliferated."


At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you have time, check out last week's Frontline program titled, The Dark Side. Billed by Frontline as, "investigating Vice President Cheney's role as chief architect of the war on terror and his internal war with George Tenet's CIA for control over intelligence..."

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JOhn: Now follow comments on "The One Percent Doctrine." Ron Suskind's reading of the first few paragraphs on the Diane Rehm show sent me to the bookstore of it. Chilling.

Also, congratulations on the award. Your site continues to have some pithy stuff. Thanks.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Anne and Roldo,
I did indeed watch that Frontline piece last week, and then immediately picked up Ron Suskind's One Percent Solution, the reporting for which served as a spine for the program. I've almost finished the book, which I've found quite eye-opening, and will post some thoughts and outtakes about it soon.


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