SHOP TALK

Sam Smith

I almost missed it. I just realized Review started 45 years ago this month as The Idler, at a time when there were less than a dozen alternative progressive publications around – like the Village Voice, Realist, IF Stone’s Weekly and Carolina Israelite. Today, according to the latest Alexa and Netcraft stats, the Review is in the top three percent of all US websites (news and otherwise) and the top three tenths of one percent of all global ones.

My near miss can be attributed perhaps to something I noticed as people asked me whether I was sad about leaving Washington and moving to Maine. I realized that journalists don’t think like that. Once you’ve finished a story, no matter how good, it’s time to think about what you’ll have for the next deadline. In a strange way, reporters are among both the most cynical and most optimistic people on earth, because no matter how bad the news is, they assume there will be plenty of other bad news in the future.

And there’s a precedent for my anniversarial indifference. I once was American correspondent for the illustrated London News, where I distinguished myself by being the first writer to get the word ‘fuck’ published in the magazine during its entire 150 year history. The top editor did not discover the affront until after publication when he demanded of my immediate editor, “how the fuck” the word “fuck” had defaced his jewel in the crown.

But it wasn’t the first time he had missed the boat. When a competing publication celebrated its 2,000th issue complete with a well publicized party and a program on the BBC, the chief editor told his associate that the ILN ought to consider something like that. “When’s our next big issue?” he asked. My editor said he wasn’t sure. So the chief editor pulled out the current edition and found it was number 5,000.

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