Editors’ Note

CJR begins a new era this month, as Liz Spayd joins the Review as editor in chief and publisher. Spayd, who spent 25 years at The Washington Post, most recently as its managing editor, becomes the tenth top editor in CJR’s 53-year history, and the first to serve as both editor and publisher. We welcome her, and look forward to working together to refine CJR’s mission—in the print magazine and at cjr.org—as a vital voice in the ongoing debate about the future of journalism. Brent Cunningham, CJR’s deputy editor who has served as its interim editor in chief since June 2013, begins a four-month leave to finish a book.

—The Editors


Culture shock

Smart column (“Off the road,” CJR, November/December). As the boss of Lyft told me the other week, it’s not a car culture anymore, it’s a “phone culture.” The implications of that—and of better, more walkable city neighborhoods, expanded light rail, bike paths that link up so you can actually get somewhere on them, hybrid-electric drive automobiles, Zipcar, Uber, Sidecar, Lyft and the other emerging semi-outlaw livery services could make for a really juicy beat just by themselves.

Cars used to define their drivers, socio-economically and emotionally. That they were expensive semi-durable goods meant a lot for middle-class American incomes. The same just can’t be said for the Galaxy S or iPhone, made in China by people who cannot dream of owning one.

Therein lies the rub, of course: You follow the money on the “mobility” beat and pretty soon you’re writing like a “labor reporter,” and we can’t have that!

Edward Ericson Jr.
Comment on cjr.org

Downward mobility

Culturally, the car used to stand for freedom and independence—and style (“The love affair is over,” CJR, November/December). And the cars were designed with those traits in mind. If you look at old cars—the MGA of 1959, say, the Chrysler New Yorker of 1962, the Ford Bronco through the early 1970s—these vehicles (and many others) were built and marketed around character. As in: They had it and wanted to attract a certain type.

Through the early ’70s, too, an average kid with a kid job could afford to buy one, new. Putting the product within reach of the target market played a role.

Today, everything looks like a caplet—you want the red pill or the blue?—and costs, as you say, $30,000 or $40,000, which is two years’ wages for any 20-year-old lucky enough to be slinging groceries or burgers.

So, two problems, only one of which—styling—can be easily solved by car manufacturers.

The shift is real, but I think it’s more economically than purely socially based. In that it’s a symptom of the country’s larger problem, which is mostly about economics and equity.

Edward Ericson Jr.
Comment on cjr.org

The increase in gasoline prices, coupled with the permanent recession that we’re now enduring, can explain the supposed decline in driving that so excites Micheline, who, as editor of Curbing Cars, is probably less than dispassionate when it comes to these matters. Car and Driver sells 1.2 million dead-tree issues a month. What is Curbing Cars’ circulation?

Alan Vanneman
Comment on cjr.org

Telling secrets

Are we talking about the same Daniel Patrick Moynihan (“America’s secret fetish,” CJR, November/December) who wrote this?

The release of secret Soviet documents after the collapse of the Soviet Union has also provided conclusive evidence of the American [Communist] party’s disloyalty, thus demolishing the theory that domestic anti-Communism was simply a conspiracy against the Left.

Tell me, Mr. Shafer, according to this, are you one of the revisionists who seek to minimize or dismiss the real threat posed by the Soviet Union during the cold war? While Moynihan thought excessive secrecy was counterproductive to real national security needs, he firmly believed the Soviet Union and its paid and loyal lackeys in the West posed an existential threat to the United States.

I firmly believe that decades from now when access to troves of classified material is made available to all we will see a similar thread between the GWOT and the cold war: There was a serious threat against the United States. This threat was at times used for political purposes by individuals and organizations who overstated it or dismissed it, and a not insignificant portion of individuals who dismissed it held loyalties with the forces and organizations who threatened the United States.

Mike H
Comment on cjr.org

In Bob we trust

Thank you for the moving piece “In the name of the Father” (Re: Robert Hoyt) by Mike Hoyt (CJR, September/October).

The Editors