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How That David Remnick Profile in The New York Times Came About

remnick04052010.jpgWhat was the origin of the glowing profile of The New Yorker editor David Remnick that appeared in this morning’s New York Times? New Yorker public relations director Alexa Cassanos says she pitched the story to Times reporter Stephanie Clifford.

“We’re pleased with it,” says Cassanos.

According to Clifford, the Times had been trying to get The New Yorker to cooperate with a story for some time. She says that Cassanos called her about doing a story pegged to Remnick’s book, a biography of Barack Obama called The Bridge, which hits shelves tomorrow. The Times had tried to do a story on the magazine earlier, pegged to job cuts at Conde. “I think they were worried that it would be seen as inappropriate,” says Clifford.


The story, titled “Making it Look Easy at The New Yorker,” describes Remnick’s multifaceted talents as a writer, editor and reporter, drawing quotes from New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell and Cond&eacute Nast Chairman S.I. Newhouse. Newhouse, who, according to the Times story, rarely comments to the media, responded to Clifford in an e-mail: Remnick “was the right person for the job. I haven’t regretted this decision.”

Clifford said she had Remnick ask Newhouse to comment, and attributes Newhouse’s decision to go on the record to the close relationship between the two. “Si’s been quite a fan of David’s,” she says.

The story twice compares Remnick to Obama, and extols his virtues as a budgetary hawk, a sensitive manager and a thoughtful editor:

Mr. Remnick says he does not like to get in the way of his writers and editors. “I don’t want to muddy the delicate relationship,” he says. But he is assiduous about sending thank-you notes to writers, “lovely thank-you notes,” Mr. Gladwell said, that make “you feel like you’re a part of something important.”

Remnick wrote The Bridge while juggling his responsibilities at The New Yorker. Per the piece, this remarkable feat results from the simple combination of Remnick and caffeine:

For Mr. Remnick, the question was not whether it was possible to handle the book and The New Yorker — some coffee would address that — but whether his curiosity would last.

“It was interesting,” says Clifford. “I didn’t get any off-the-record sniping, which was kind of remarkable.” She says interviewing Remnick posed a particular challenge; the editor would comment on her interviewing style as they talked. “It was a little bit like boxing with Muhammad Ali or something.”

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