Writers from Hilton Als to Marlon James responded yesterday to the loss of the inimitable David Bowie, and many recalled the books he loved most. (In a 1998 Proust questionnaire, Bowie’s answers, respectively, to “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” and “What is the quality you most like in a man?” were “Reading,” and ”The ability to return books.”)
Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has announced that running a magazine (or finding “a workable business model” for one) is a lot harder than he’d hoped: “After investing a great deal of time, energy, and over $20 million,” he wrote yesterday in a memo to staff, he is giving up on the New Republic and plans to sell it. “Vox, Vice, the Texas Tribune, Buzzfeed, ProPublica, and Mic embody a new generation of promising organizations — some for-profit, others non-profit — that have put serious, high-quality journalism at the core of their identities. The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other traditional outlets seem to have found business models that work for them. I hope that this institution will one day be part of that list. To get there The New Republic needs a new vision that only a new owner can bring.” The Wall Street Journal noted that TNR’s web traffic had dropped by more than fifty percent after the mass walkout of the old guard late last year, and hadn’t really recovered since, but it also quoted former editor Franklin Foer as saying that the magazine “has spent 100 years cheating death,” and may keep on doing so.
Meanwhile, after five years at the helm of the Paris Review, Lorin Stein—who recalls that “When I told my sister I was quitting my job as a book editor to edit a magazine of stories and poems, she looked as if I’d said I was running away to join the circus: a tiny, doomed, irrelevant circus”—appears to be going strong.
It seems Sean Penn may not have been Chapo Guzmán’s first choice to write about him: The New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe has an interesting piece about the El Chapo saga, in which he mentions his own (tactful) refusal of an offer to collaborate on the drug lord’s memoirs. As well as putting him on dubious legal footing, Keefe “worried that the whole scenario felt like Act I of a thriller in which the hapless magazine writer, blinded by his desire for a scoop, does not necessarily survive Act III.”
In the UK, the Daily Telegraph apparently installed heat and motion sensors to monitor how much time its journalists spend at their desks—but then removed the devices again a few hours later after staff complaints and a report about the incident on Buzzfeed. It’s nice to keep tabs on your employees, perhaps, but less fun once someone else starts keeping tabs on the tabs you’re keeping.