The New Yorker is an American magazine that publishes reportage, criticism, essays, cartoons, poetry, and fiction. Originally a weekly, the magazine is now published 47 times per year with five (usually more expansive) issues covering two-week spans. Although its reviews and events listings often focus on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside of New York. It is well known for its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana; its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews; its rigorous fact checking and copyediting; its journalism about world politics and social issues; and its famous, single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue. The New Yorker impacts society in numerous ways, and so has a responsibility to contribute to the positive advancement of humankind.
The New Yorker debuted on February 17, 1925, with the February 21 issue. It was founded by Harold W. Ross and his wife, Jane Grant, a New York Times reporter. Ross wanted to create a sophisticated humor magazine—in contrast to the corniness of other humor publications such as Judge, where he had worked. Ross partnered with entrepreneur Raoul H. Fleischman to establish the F-R Publishing Company and established the magazine's first offices at 25 West 45th Street in Manhattan. Ross continued to edit the magazine until his death in 1951. For the first, occasionally precarious, years of its existence, the magazine prided itself on its cosmopolitan sophistication. The New Yorker famously declared in the debut issue: "It has announced that it is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque [Iowa]."
While the magazine never lost its touches of humor, The New Yorker soon established itself as a preëminent forum for serious journalism and fiction. Shortly after the end of World War II, John Hersey's essay Hiroshima filled an entire issue. In subsequent decades the magazine published short stories by many of the most respected writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Ann Beattie, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, J. D. Salinger and John Updike. Publication of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery drew more mail than any other story in the New Yorker's history.
In its early decades, the magazine sometimes published two or even three short stories a week, but in later years the pace remained steady at one story per issue. While some styles and themes recur more often than others in New Yorker fiction, the magazine's stories are marked less by uniformity than by their variety, and they have ranged from Updike's introspective domestic narratives to the surrealism of Donald Barthelme, and from parochial accounts of the lives of neurotic New Yorkers to stories set in a wide range of locations and eras and translated from many languages.
The non-fiction feature articles (which usually make up the bulk of the magazine's content) are known for covering an eclectic array of topics. Subjects have included eccentric evangelist Creflo Dollar, the different ways in which humans perceive the passage of time, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
The magazine is notable for its editorial traditions. Under the rubric Profiles, it has long published articles about a wide range of notable people, from Ernest Hemingway, Henry R. Luce, and Marlon Brando to Hollywood restaurateur Prince Michael Romanoff, magician Ricky Jay and mathematicians David and Gregory Chudnovsky. Other enduring features have been "Goings On About Town," a listing of cultural and entertainment events in New York, and "The Talk of the Town," a miscellany of brief pieces—frequently humorous, whimsical, or eccentric vignettes of life in New York—written in a breezily light style, although the section often begins with a serious commentary. For many years, newspaper snippets containing amusing errors, unintended meanings, or badly mixed metaphors ("Block That Metaphor") have been used as filler items, accompanied by a witty retort. Despite some changes having encroached, the magazine has kept much of its traditional appearance over the decades in typography, layout, covers, and artwork.
The magazine was acquired by Advance Publications in 1985, the media company owned by S. I. Newhouse. Since the late 1990s, The New Yorker has taken advantage of computer and Internet technologies for the release of current and archival material. The New Yorker maintains a website with some content from the current issue (plus exclusive web-only content). A complete archive of back issues from 1925 to April 2006 (representing more than four thousand issues and half a million pages) is available on nine DVD-ROMs or on a small portable hard drive.
The New Yorker had a circulation of 996,000 subscribers as of 2004. The total number of subscribers increased at about a three percent annual pace over the past several years. Also, despite the magazine's focus, its subscription base has expanded geographically; in 2003 there were more subscribers in California (167,000) than in New York (166,000) for the first time in the magazine's history. The average age of subscribers rose from 46.8 in 2004 to 48.4 in 2005, compared with a rise of 43.8 to 44.0 for the nation, and a rise from 45.4 to 46.3 for news magazine subscribers. The average household income of a New Yorker subscriber was $80,957 in 2005, while the average income for a U.S. household with a subscription to a news magazine was $67,003, and the U.S. average household income was $51,466.
The magazine has its own distinctive style manual. One uncommonly formal feature of the magazine's in-house style is the placement of diaeresis marks in words with repeating vowels—such as reëlected and coöperate—in which the two vowel letters indicate separate vowel sounds. The magazine does not put the titles of plays or books in italics, but simply sets them off with quotation marks. When referring to other publications that include locations in their names, it uses italics only for the "non-location" portion of the name, such as the Los Angeles Times or the Chicago Tribune.
Formerly, when a word or phrase in quotation marks came at the end of a phrase or clause that ended with a semicolon, the semicolon would be put before the trailing quotation mark; now, however, the magazine follows the usual American punctuation style and puts the semicolon after the second quotation mark.
Traditionally, the magazine's politics have been essentially liberal and non-partisan. However, in later years, the editorial staff has taken a somewhat more partisan stance. Coverage of the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, led by editorial writer Hendrik Hertzberg and then-political correspondent Philip Gourevitch, strongly favored Democratic candidate John Kerry. In its November 1, 2004 issue, the magazine broke with 80 years of precedent and issued a formal endorsement of Kerry in a long editorial, signed "The Editors," which specifically criticized the policies of the Bush administration.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, cartoonist and cover artist Art Spiegelman created, together with his wife, Françoise Mouly, the magazine's art editor, a memorable black-on-black cover with the dark silhouette of the buildings visible only when held in a certain light or angle. Spiegelman later resigned in protest of what he saw as the magazine's self-censorship in its political coverage. The magazine hired investigative journalist Seymour Hersh to report on military and security issues, and he produced a number of widely-reported articles on the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation by U.S. forces. His revelations in The New Yorker about abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison and the Pentagon's contingency plans for invading Iran were reported around the world.
The New Yorker is famous for including a number of single panel cartoons in each issue. The magazine's cartoonists have included many important talents in American humor, including Charles Addams, Charles Barsotti, George Booth, Helen Hokinson, Mary Petty, George Price, Charles Saxon, Saul Steinberg, William Steig, Richard Taylor, Barney Tobey, James Thurber and Gahan Wilson. The notion that some New Yorker cartoons have punchlines so non sequitur that they are impossible to understand became a source of humor itself.
Several of the magazine's cartoons have climbed to a higher plateau of fame: In Peter Steiner's drawing of two dogs at a computer, one says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The catch phrase "back to the drawing board" originated with the 1941 Peter Arno cartoon showing an engineer walking away from a crashed plane, saying, "Well, back to the old drawing board." In Robert Mankoff's drawing set in an office overlooking the city, a man on the phone says, "No, Thursday's out. How about never—is never good for you?"
Over seven decades, many hardcover compilations of cartoons from The New Yorker have been published, and in 2004, Mankoff edited The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, a 656-page collection with 2004 of the magazine's best cartoons published during 80 years, plus a double CD set with all 68,647 cartoons ever published in the magazine.
The magazine's first cover of a "dandy" peering at a butterfly through a monocle, was drawn by Rea Irvin, who also designed the typeface the magazine uses for its nameplate and headlines and the masthead above The Talk of the Town section. The gentleman on the original cover is referred to as "Eustace Tilley," a character created for The New Yorker by Corey Ford. Eustace Tilley was the hero of a series entitled "The Making of a Magazine," which began on the inside front cover of the August 8 issue that first summer. He was a younger man than the figure of the original cover. His top hat was of a newer style, without the curved brim. He wore a morning coat and striped trousers. Ford borrowed Eustace Tilley's last name from an aunt—he had always found it vaguely humorous. "Eustace" was selected for euphony.
Tilley was always busy, and in illustrations by Johann Bull, always poised. He might be in Mexico, supervising the vast farms that grew the cactus for binding the magazine's pages together. "The Punctuation Farm," where commas were grown in profusion because Ross had developed a love of them, was naturally in a more fertile region. Tilley might be inspecting the "Initial Department," where letters were sent to be capitalized. Or he might be superintending the "Emphasis Department," where letters were placed in a vise and forced sideways, for the creation of italics. He would jump to the Sargasso Sea, where by insulting squids he got ink for the printing presses, which were powered by a horse turning a pole. It was told how in the great paper shortage of 1882 he had saved the magazine by getting society matrons to contribute their finery. Thereafter dresses were made at a special factory and girls employed to wear them out, after which the cloth was used for manufacturing paper. Raoul Fleischmann gathered the Tilley series into a promotion booklet. Later, Ross took a listing for Eustace Tilley in the Manhattan telephone directory.
Traditionally, the original Tilley cover is reused every year on the issue closest to the anniversary date of February 21, though on several occasions a newly drawn variation has been substituted.
All links retrieved January 7, 2015.
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