One message that I erased, unfortunately, came from Seymour Hersh, but I remember it vividly and can supply a dramatic re-enactment: Scott Sherman, a longtime contributing editor to CJR, was reporting his terrific 2003 profile of the great investigative reporter. A dispute erupted about whether a nice anecdote that Scott had witnessed was on the record, or off. The phone message went this way: “Hoyt? Hersh. Who the fuck is Scott Sherman and what the fuck is he doing? What he’s doing is wrong. It’s wrong!” This was followed by the sound of a phone slamming down. Everyone survived, including Scott, and I want to thank Seymour Hersh for his kind letter to CJR at fifty, which you can read on page 19, as well as for his years of indispensable investigations.
While I am expressing gratitude, I want to thank Victor Navasky, CJR’s wise and resourceful chairman, who has done nothing less than keep this place in the black and glued together, with the help of the stalwart Dennis Giza, CJR’s fiscal compass, and our co-chairman, Peter Osnos. I want to also thank our dean, Nicholas Lemann, who has given CJR nothing but support and good ideas, and absorbed more arrows on our behalf than we’ll ever know.
And then there is the staff. One editorial skill I am quite confident I have is the ability to hire strong and creative people, because, hey, look at them. I cannot say enough about these hardworking, wicked-smart, and articulate writers and editors. And thanks to all those great free-lance writers through all those years, too—except the ones who were late.
Finally, you, the reader, without whom, who cares? All of us connected to CJR—staff and readers, friends and enemies—seem to know that we are part of a conversation that matters. Journalism matters. This is something we know even more deeply now that it seems to be a resource we can no longer take for granted, like the air.
Two weeks before I went to journalism school, back in Missouri and back in the day, it dawned on me that reporters probably had to type. So I bought a used textbook, covered the keys with little red stickers as the book suggested, and learned how. You can see the typewriter, my father’s Underwood, in the accompanying photo of the guy with the moustache and no clue of what lies ahead.
The real lesson came much later, after years on the job: that journalism is not all that difficult, really, but journalism of value is difficult indeed. CJR is that voice saying it is worth the effort. I cannot express the goal we share here better than Jim Boylan did fifty years ago in CJR’s founding editorial, which you can read here—in that line about the need for journalism that is a match for the complications of the age.
Our age is most complicated. It requires a level of journalism to match it. CJR can help with that. Let’s go.