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My choice for Magazine of the Year

March 19, 2019

The 2019 National Magazine Awards for Print and Digital Media were presented recently at a dinner in New York.

No Magazine of the Year was named. The American Society of Magazine Editors dropped the prestigious category in 2018 when the awards were expanded to include social media and digital innovation.

So I guess it’s up to me to select the 2019 Magazine of the Year. I choose The New Yorker.

This year The New Yorker won four of the awards’ elephant-shaped statuettes called Ellies, the most of any contender.

Here are brief descriptions of the four by category:

Reporting. For “Shallow Graves” by Ben Taub about Iraq’s bloody campaign to eliminate ISIS.

Feature Writing. For “A Theory of Relativity” by Elif Batuman about Japan’s rent-a-family industry.

Columns and Commentary. For three articles by Doreen St. Felix: About racism in the National Geographic, Megan Markle’s mother at her daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry, and the Senate’s contentious hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Public Interest. For “No Refuge” by Sarah Stillman about the violent fate that many immigrants in the U.S. face if they are sent back to their home countries.

To read The New Yorker’s winning entries go to https://www.newyorker.com/.

The New Yorker (not to be confused with the newer and breezier New York) runs listings and reviews that focus on New York City but has a large readership outside the New York area.

The magazine is known for topical cover illustrations, high-quality fiction, pungent satire, in-depth journalism that is supported by rigorous fact-checking and, of course, witty single-panel cartoons.

The weekly publication was founded in 1925 by vagabond newspaperman Harold Ross, and his wife Jane Grant. Ross wanted The New Yorker to be a humor magazine but more sophisticated than Judge, where he had worked.

“It is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque,” Ross declared in a prospectus for his creation.

As the years went by, The New Yorker published more journalism.

Ross was succeeded as editor in 1951 by William Shawn, an introvert who put a high priority on long, fact-filled reportage. Shawn was succeeded in 1987 by Robert Gottlieb, and Gottlieb was succeeded in 1992 by Tina Brown, a high-profile Brit. She added photographs, letters to the editor and a more open layout.

Brown was succeeded in 1998 by David Remnick, who had been a Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book, “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.”

Since Remnick was appointed editor, The New Yorker has won 48 Ellies. He must be doing something right.

I think the ASME should revive the Magazine of the Year category.

Folio, an online observer of the magazine industry, quoted a publisher as saying: “It’s a bit like the Oscars deciding to stop giving out an award for Best Picture.”

Paul Janensch, former newspaper editor who taught journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes about the media. He is a Bridgeport resident and formerly of Rowayton. Email: paul.janensch@quinnipiac.edu.