Of the five editors in the 81--year history of the New Yorker, David Remnick is the first to report and write frequently for the magazine, which should come as little surprise considering that he made his name as a Moscow correspondent for the Washington Post during the crumbling of the Soviet Union. Remnick joined the New Yorker in 1992 (after 10 years at the Post) while he finished his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire." In 1998 he became editor in chief. Now Remnick has a new collection, "Reporting: Writings From the New Yorker," which Pete Hamill called an example of "classic journalistic style: concrete nouns, active verbs, graceful sentences, solid paragraphs, subtle transitions," in a New York Times review.
Earlier this month Remnick sat down for an interview (36:58, MP3) with Leonard Lopate of WNYC to talk about the new book. Lopate and Remnick discuss the transition from objectivity to fairness as the standard in journalism, the trauma of plagiarism scandals and the arc of Remnick's career, as well as Al Gore, Tony Blair, Philip Roth, and why boxers make better subjects than baseball players. "It's painful for him and it's painful for me," Remnick says of hearing Gore joke about his defeat in victory of 2000. "It's painful for all of us who have looked back on the last six years to see a presidency go the way the Bush presidency has." Later Remnick muses on why Blair was willing along with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "I think he knew in his heart of hearts that the United States was determined to do this anyway," says Remnick. "And we now know ... that the Bush administration was hellbent on this ... I think [Blair] made a calculation that a certain kind of support and alliance with the United States would be to the advantage of Britain and that he could somehow temper the American reaction."
But perhaps most interesting is Remnick's comment on the sad fate of Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union: "I think that if we weren't all so obsessed with, and rightly obsessed with, what's going on in South Asia and the Middle East and our own troubled politics, we would be paying attention to a situation in which the great moment of postwar history -- that's the collapse of the Soviet union and the hope that it gave -- has gone into a tailspin."
-- Ira Boudway