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REMNICK SEES THE FUTURE: What's on David Remnick's mind these days? In a video interview with Big Think, a Web start-up that marries high-profile interviews with social networking, The New Yorker editor in chief reflects on his childhood, his big breaks at The Washington Post and in Russia, and discusses the future of The New Yorker and of journalism in general. But he also admits he worries about whether The New Yorker is funny enough.
He recalls a lunch with 87-year-old New Yorker legend Roger Angell: "I said, 'You know, Roger, I've been doing this for a couple of years, and it's easier for me to get somebody to go sleep on the ground in Sudan and dodge bullets in Afghanistan than it is to get something authentically funny.' And he nodded and he said, 'Well, that's very interesting, because you are now the fifth editor of The New Yorker to tell me this, beginning with Harold Ross.'"
Remnick also spoke at length about the survival of newspapers. "I think newspapers are going to be with us in one form or another. They may just be completely on a screen. And if they're not, I'm conservative enough to think that's a gigantic tragedy....And all that said, I couldn't care less if it's no longer on paper. I mean, I have an atavistic affection for that, but even I at 49 see this as semiludicrous."
But he contrasted his own predicament with that of newspaper editors, speculating: "The best technology so far for reading a 14,000-word piece might be that thing you roll up, shove into your bag and take with you on the train that you can't with the Web. I don't see many people reading long New Yorker pieces on a PDA in the subway, or on commuter trains or airplanes." He added, "Now if you told me in 50 years The New Yorker won't be on paper, I wouldn't be shocked. I'd be sad, maybe. I don't think that's [going to be] the case but, again, prediction is the lowest form of human endeavor."
Still, The New Yorker is forging ahead with its digital strategy, albeit with great deliberateness. Remnick was philosophical about its prospects vis-à-vis the mission of the magazine itself, saying, "I don't think that just because we have a couple of little videos on our Web site, that's gonna be the salvation of The New Yorker. It's nice. It might be fun, but...I think there will always be readers." The full interview is at BigThink.com. — Irin Carmon