John F. Kennedy Jr., who styles himself "editor in chief and founder" of George magazine, has offered a considerable challenge to magazine editors everywhere by posing nude in the September issue of his publication. For too long, journalists have been content to expose other people. Is it not time for them to start exposing themselves? The thought of naked magazine editors--with the exception of JFK Jr., of course--is not one many readers will find appealing. Whatever reason one might have for subscribing to George, the editor in chief's body is unlikely to be a major selling point for, say, Time or Newsweek. But we in the magazine industry believe deeply--if we believe anything at all--that a trend is a trend and cannot be resisted. Therefore, naked editors it is.
Here at Slate, though, we eschew grandiose titles like "editor in chief," let alone "founder." At the special staff meeting called to discuss the issue of who should bare all for the good of the magazine, there was a groundswell of support for calling upon the CEO of Microsoft--but no one volunteered to make the call. In the end, the editor decided to delegate the challenge of self-exposure to the New York editor, who delegated it to an associate editor, who delegated it to an assistant editor, who delegated it to the youngest member of our staff, Aidan Weed, whose title is Special Issue of the Publisher.
Although Weed does not technically bare all, he does--unlike his rival in George--refrain from making clever use of light and shadow to hide the aspects of the story that interest his readers the most. Like Kennedy, however, Weed uses the occasion to vent some controversial opinions about his relatives. His mother and father, he reveals, are "just terrible parents. They're driving me crazy with their 'eat this ... drink this ... go to sleep ... stop crying.' " Weed shares Kennedy's tart views about his relatives' relations with the baby sitter. "They just use her for their own pleasure," he says. "I get stuck with her, while they go out and party. It's incredibly immature."
And why did Weed agree to put his body on the line--or, rather, online? "It's a statement on the need for ... well, it's a symbol of ... oh, heck, I don't know--I'm only nine months old.
"But I'd do anything for Slate," he adds. "I just love that magazine."
Daniel Akst's recent article, arguing that investing in index mutual funds is "evil," has produced a heated response from Todd Porter, a mutual fund analyst at Morningstar, an independent financial publisher. Akst could not be enticed into a dialogue on the subject (to continue the theme of the previous item, he and his wife just had twins), but we publish Porter's response in "E-Mail to the Editors," and take this opportunity to draw special attention to it.
Old Folks at Home
Among the first people to join the staff of Slate, way back in 1996, were Associate Publisher Betsy Davis and Program Manager Bill Barnes. Both were longtime Microsoft employees (14 years in Betsy's case) who happily embraced this different sort of software product and the different sort of people (i.e., journalists) it brought with it. Now, after Slate careers that span almost 18 months, Betsy and Bill are both retiring--at ages 40 and 30 respectively. From which you may conclude either that Slate is a horrible place to work, or that Microsoft is a great place to work.
As production manager and then associate publisher, Betsy designed and supervised the process by which Slate gets from writers through editors to you. Publishing on the Web is still very new, and Slate's publication process--with its daily postings, e-mail and print versions, constant redesigns, and so on--is very complicated. Betsy's logical mind and wonderful laugh, among other gifts, made it all happen (well, most of the time).
And what, exactly, is a "program manager"? Bill liked to explain that on normal software projects, the program manager is just that: in charge of the program. On Slate, the program manager is, in essence, the chief computer guy in a nest of cybernaifs. But Bill took amiably and skillfully to his ambassadorial function, and is more responsible than any other person for designing the actual technology behind Slate. He also has written our "Webhead" column, and will continue to contribute to it.
All of us at Slate wish Betsy and Bill the best as they enter their Golden Years. We'll miss you.