Inside America’s Most Interesting Magazine, and Media’s Oddest Workplace

It was, for Harper’s, a sensation, receiving 2.5 million views. The magazine — whose paywall is now more porous, but is still years behind the kind of digital subscription machine that drives The New Yorker and The Atlantic — grew its subscription base 13 percent and bounced back above 100,000 subscribers. It is still far down from a peak of 231,670 during the George W. Bush years, and so far from breaking even that Mr. MacArthur told me he hadn’t done the math of what it would take to get there.

The Harper’s staff, since Mr. MacArthur broke the union, is not a rebellious bunch. No current staff member would speak to me on the record about the magazine. But when the letter appeared on the website, they revolted, and in an emotional Zoom meeting on July 8 (they weren’t yet back at the office), Mr. Beha took responsibility for publishing the letter and defended it. A former Harper’s assistant editor who is now a New Yorker fact-checker, Shirley Ngozi Nwangwa, recalled that editors argued that regardless of its intent, the letter would be used “as ammunition against the racial justice protests.”

Mr. Beha also told the Harper’s employees they were free to speak up on social media against the letter; an editor responded that they feared Mr. MacArthur would fire them if they did. The next day, Mr. Beha wrote an elliptical email that didn’t mention Mr. MacArthur, but acknowledged that he had been trying to “make the parts of the office that are under my control as open, respectful and tolerant of difference as I could, while insulating my staff as much as possible.”

Harper’s didn’t publish the letter in print until October, packaging it with several scathing attacks on it and one signatory’s apology for signing. In an editor’s note, Mr. Beha wrote that the attacks themselves were an instance of the kind of debate the letter supported, and that “in that sense, even the letter’s loudest critics were in a kind of agreement with it.”

There are two ways to read the Harper’s letter. One is to see it as a rejection of elements of the protests against racism, and a direct rejoinder to claims that some speech is physically dangerous. That’s how it was read by many of the Harper’s editorial staff members who opposed it, and also apparently how it was read by Mr. MacArthur, who signed it.

Though he has contributed to Harper’s only twice over 40 years, Mr. MacArthur writes an occasional column in French for the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir. (In another Harper’s oddity, the column is translated back into English by someone else, then published without further editing on the Harper’s website.) There, Mr. MacArthur described the letter as “a public stand against political correctness and ‘cancel culture.’” Earlier this month, he denounced theMcCarthyism and mob rule” at work when The New York Times forced out a veteran journalist who had used a racial slur on a trip with teenagers to Peru. Mr. MacArthur wrote the word in full, “a matter of honor, as a matter of principle, to use it informationally like he did,” he told me.

But Mr. MacArthur’s columns don’t appear in the print magazine. Relatively little railing against cancel culture does. And indeed, there’s also another way to read the Harper’s letter, which is simply its plain language, which called for a “culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes.” That’s how Mr. Beha said he has strained to interpret it, and why he’s avoided taking Harper’s down an overtly reactionary — if commercially promising — path.

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Medium Offers Buyouts to Editorial Employees

Medium, the website that gives individual writers a platform and in recent years started its own online magazines, offered voluntary buyouts to all of its editorial staff on Tuesday as it announced it was scaling back its journalism.

During a monthly all-hands meeting conducted by videoconference, the staff members were also told that Siobhan O’Connor, the vice president for editorial since 2018, would be leaving the company.

Evan Williams, a Twitter co-founder who started Medium in 2012, explained in a long email to the staff after the meeting that Medium was “making some changes” to its publishing strategy. He said Medium would reduce the budgets of the publications run by the company and redirect resources to supporting independent writers on the platform.

Medium has struggled to find its footing with independent journalism. It began as a blogging platform, allowing anyone to publish, with the goal of building “a new model for media on the internet.” In 2017, the company laid off a third of its workers — 50 people — after Mr. Williams decided to turn away from ad-driven content. In 2019, the company ramped up its own journalism efforts with the introduction of OneZero, a tech and science publication, which was followed by others, including GEN (politics and culture), Elemental (health) and Zora (women of color).

in a statement on March 1.

A Medium spokeswoman said in a statement that the company remained “fully committed to high-quality editorial and to the open platform model that supports independent writers.”

“The voluntary buyout reflects changes we’re making to our editorial team to create a more flexible organization that focuses on both,” the statement read.

The spokeswoman said Medium’s content operation would be led by Jermaine Hall and Scott Lamb after Ms. O’Connor’s departure.

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Marianne Carus, Whose Cricket Magazine Reached Young Readers, Dies at 92

“They were aghast at what Dick and Jane had done to American reading,” John Grandits, Cricket’s first designer, said in a phone interview.

The Caruses tried a different approach a decade later with Cricket, starting with their advisory board, which they stacked with literary heavyweights, among them the children’s author Lloyd Alexander; Virginia Haviland, the founder of the Children’s Book Section at the Library of Congress; and the novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer. (A story by Mr. Singer, about a cricket who lived behind a stove, inspired the magazine’s name.) The board offered advice and helped the Caruses make inroads among the librarians and well-educated parents they would target as subscribers.

The couple also drew on the East Coast literary world to build their staff. Marcia Leonard, an editorial assistant and their first hire, was a recent graduate of the publishing course at Radcliffe College. They hired Clifton Fadiman, a former books editor at The New Yorker, to be Cricket’s senior editor. Mr. Fadiman’s regular radio and television appearances made him one of the few midcentury New York intellectuals to become a household name, and he used his extensive network of friends to stock the magazine’s pages: He got his friend Charles M. Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” to contribute to the first issue.

Alongside Mr. Schulz, the first few issues of Cricket featured new work by Mr. Singer and Nonny Hogrogian, a two-time winner of the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature, as well as reprints of work by T.S. Eliot and Astrid Lindgren, who created Pippi Longstocking.

Writers of both children’s and adult literature tried to get into the pages of Cricket; Ms. Carus once rejected a submission by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Saroyan. (He took it gracefully and sent in another story, which she accepted.)

Ms. Carus published several anthologies of Cricket stories, and in the early 1990s launched three more titles, aimed at different ages. She ran the magazine out of a book-filled warren of offices above a downtown bar, and later out of a repurposed clock factory. Around 2000 its headquarters, and its staff of about 100, moved to Chicago, though Ms. Carus, still the editor, decided to stay in LaSalle, with some of her top editors trekking back and forth every few days. The Caruses sold Cricket and its related titles in 2011; they are still being published.

Despite its fan base, Cricket never made much of a profit, a fact that did not seem to bother Ms. Carus.

“This is an idealistic undertaking,” she told The Baltimore Sun. “We’re not trying to make money. If we were, we’d be in comics and sex manuals.”

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The Obstacles to Reporting on Black Representation in Fashion

Leaders in the fashion world have pledged to address racism in their business. But to determine whether anything is improving, reporters for The New York Times felt they needed a concrete set of data about the current state of Black representation in the industry.

Reporters asked prominent brands, stores and publications to provide information about the number of Black employees and executives in their ranks — including those who design, make and sell products; walk runways; appear in ad campaigns and on magazine covers; and sit on corporate boards. But of the 64 companies contacted, only four responded fully to a short set of questions.

In a recent article, a team of reporters published the responses from the companies, along with personal comments from Black stylists, editors and publicists. Below is an edited conversation with those journalists: Vanessa Friedman, Salamishah Tillet, Elizabeth Paton, Jessica Testa and Evan Nicole Brown.

What was the biggest challenge in telling this story?

VANESSA FRIEDMAN The absolute lack of consistency. You’re dealing with global organizations that speak to a variety of markets, tapping into a whole bunch of different kinds of cultural areas. They’re headquartered in different countries with different demographics, different histories, different issues with racism and different laws. We had one set of very simple questions, less than 10, that felt like the most basic, obvious things everyone could answer. But only four companies out of 64 answered completely.

When did you realize the inability to answer the questions was the story?

FRIEDMAN You write what you find, and we felt that it was important to get across that if you have that level of chaos in the basic information, until you can make that into a clearer picture, you can’t actually know when progress is happening.

Why weren’t the companies able to answer these questions?

ELIZABETH PATON Every company had its own reservations and issues and reasons. I think, to a degree, it had to do with culture. For example, how the Italian brands perceived what we were trying to do was different than the Americans. I mean, legal reasons were part of it, but the American companies notably provided more information than the European companies did. I actually think that America is in a slightly different place in its conversation about race at the moment.

JESSICA TESTA It was almost surprising how reluctant some of the magazines were about participating because their numbers were the ones that were actually going to reflect well on them. I do feel like we were getting resistance from all sides, but one thing we did hear was, “I’ll be interested in participating next time.”

What has the response been like to the story?

PATON The majority of brands do understand the work that we’re doing, even if they found the questions really uncomfortable. A couple of brands were disappointed that their efforts were not more recognized, even if they hadn’t given us full answers. I haven’t heard any brand telling us that we made a mistake in trying to undertake this project. They recognize they need this scrutiny to change.

You also interviewed people about their experience working in the industry. What did you take away from that?

EVAN NICOLE BROWN It was important to me to find the intersections, but also the differences, in what Black professionals in this space felt. Sometimes people in the past have been asked to comment on things, and there has been a fear that might work against them, or their concerns would be misunderstood, but I feel like this project did a really good job at making people feel comfortable to speak. I think that this platform was appreciated, and it felt like there was no fear in terms of just sharing those really honest experiences, which definitely helped the piece and helped confirm the data or lack thereof.

What questions remain really interesting to you?

SALAMISHAH TILLET For me, how do you continue to diversify the leadership at the top? And then what are the structures and what are the assumptions that happen in those spaces that prevent that leadership from becoming more and more diverse? Because we would like to continue to change all aspects of the industry and all levers of the industry, but if the top remains monolithic, then really they’re the ones who are determining how the other aspects of the industry are also changing alongside it.

BROWN I was really interested in the tension of where classism comes up in this conversation as it relates to representation. Even if representation in the fashion industry improves on the race front, there’s still work to be done on the socioeconomic front. Through this reporting, that was illuminated more for me — which communities are being reached and what the ideal consumer is for so many of these places we’re discussing.

What do you want readers to take away?

FRIEDMAN I think we learned a lot about where the sticking points are and the need for a clear picture of what is going on. You cannot move forward until you know where you are. And it is just time for us all to know where we are with this industry.

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Teen Vogue Staff Members Condemn Editor’s Decade-Old, Racist Tweets

A group of Teen Vogue staff members raised concerns on Monday over decade-old racist tweets by their new editor in chief, Alexi McCammond.

Ms. McCammond, 27, a political reporter for Axios and a contributor for MSNBC and NBC, was named the top editor of the Condé Nast publication on Friday. Over the weekend, offensive tweets she had sent as a teenager in 2011 were recirculated on social media.

The tweets were originally uncovered in 2019, and Ms. McCammond apologized for them at the time, saying: “I am deeply sorry to anyone I offended. I have since deleted those tweets as they do not reflect my views or who I am today.”

In a note posted to Twitter on Monday night, a group of more than 20 Teen Vogue staff members said they had written a letter to Condé Nast management condemning Ms. McCammond’s “past racist and homophobic tweets.”

Mr. Ducklo resigned from the White House in February after threatening a Politico reporter who was working on a story about the relationship.

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Hershel Shanks, Whose Magazine Uncovered Ancient Israel, Dies at 90

Mr. Shanks died on Feb. 5 at his home in Washington. He was 90.

His daughter Elizabeth Alexander, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, said the cause was complications of Covid-19.

Mr. Shanks made it clear that he was an amateur, albeit an impassioned one. Having gone to a Sunday school at his synagogue, he read Hebrew but could not translate it.

“As the reader may have noticed, I have not spoken of my biblical training,” he wrote in a jaunty 2010 memoir, “Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls: And Other Adventures of an Archaeology Outsider,” “because I had none.”

But for many years he belonged to a group of Jewish friends in Washington who met periodically to talk about the Bible. Although he grew up in a home where, as he wrote, “there was something treyf (unkosher)” about the New Testament, he took a course in the Christian Bible that led to a meeting with William F. Albright, a towering figure in archaeology who had authenticated the Dead Sea Scrolls after they were found by a young shepherd.

“Paradoxically,” Mr. Shanks wrote, “I came to the Hebrew Bible through the New Testament.”

At the start of that transformative year in Israel, Mr. Shanks wrote 300 pages of a novel about Saul, the first king of Israel, which he eventually abandoned as “no good.” Then he got to know Israel’s rock star of an archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, through a fortuitous find by his daughter Elizabeth, then 6, at Tel Hazor in the Upper Galilee.

The Shanks family was visiting the Hazor mound, the site of what in the ninth century B.C. was the largest fortified city in the ancient kingdom of Israel, and searching for sherds, or ceramic fragments, when Elizabeth stumbled upon a small piece of a clay handle less than an inch and a half long with an image etched into the clay. Mr. Yadin, who led the landmark Hazor expedition in the mid-1950s, identified the image as a Syro-Hittite deity from the Late Bronze Age in a pose known as the “smiting god.”

He urged Mr. Shanks to write an article about the handle for an Israeli journal, which he did with Mr. Yadin’s help. And so a new career was born.

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Teen Vogue Selects Its Next Top Editor, the Political Reporter Alexi McCammond

Alexi McCammond, a political reporter at Axios, will be the next editor in chief of Teen Vogue, Condé Nast announced Friday.

Ms. McCammond, 27, made her name covering the 2018 midterm elections and Joseph R. Biden’s presidential campaign for Axios, a site known for its punchy Beltway coverage. She has also been a frequent contributor to NBC and MSNBC. In her new role, she will lead the Teen Vogue team across digital, video and social media. She starts on March 24.

The appointment of Ms. McCammond to the top Teen Vogue job suggests that the publication, which stopped publishing regular print issues in 2017, will continue to be a venue for political reporting and commentary, in addition to its coverage of fashion, beauty and culture. Teen Vogue expanded its purview during the political rise of Donald J. Trump, winning plaudits for essays like Lauren Duca’s “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America” in 2016.

Ms. McCammond succeeds Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the editor in chief of Teen Vogue since 2018, who in January was appointed to the top job at New York Magazine’s style website, The Cut. Anna Wintour, the global editorial director of Vogue and Condé Nast’s chief content officer, said in a statement that Ms. McCammond had “the powerful curiosity and confidence that embodies the best of our next generation of leaders.”

Vanity Fair later reported, Mr. Ducklo tried to intimidate the Politico reporter writing the article, Tara Palmeri, telling her: “I will destroy you.”

Before the Politico item appeared, People published an exclusive, feel-good account of the relationship under the headline “Reporter Forgoes Covering President as Romance Blossoms with Biden Aide Battling Cancer: ‘Didn’t Think Twice.’”

After Mr. Ducklo’s treatment of the Politico reporter became public, the White House announced that it had suspended him. The next day, after many commentators noted President Biden’s earlier pledge to fire any staff member who behaved in a disrespectful manner, Mr. Ducklo resigned.

Ms. McCammond joined Axios in 2017 after a stint at the website Bustle. In 2019, the National Association of Black Journalists named her the emerging journalist of the year. She said in a statement that she looked forward to working with the Teen Vogue team to “build a unique community of ambitious, curious and fashion-forward young leaders.”

In January, Teen Vogue had 10.8 million unique viewers online, according to Condé Nast, a 21 percent jump over the previous year.

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