Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The New Yorker Loves Facts!

If you sift through the clunky writing in this Haaretz interview with New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick you'll be amply rewarded with a view into the inner-workings of one of the most anal-retentive magazines on the planet.

Here Remnick describes how each interview subject must relent to being the asked the same questions twice if they want to be quoted by the monocle'd mag:

"When I go to interview, for example, Sheikh Naif Rajoub, one of the leaders of Hamas, I go with a translator, because I do not speak Arabic. I don't want to record too much, because that is double the work. I write pretty fast, and I know what to omit. But that's okay. Because afterward, at the office, our Arabic fact checker - a very talented Lebanese-American woman - will call Sheikh Rajoub and go over it with him, fact after fact. She will ask, 'You said that you will never recognize Israel - is that true?' And he will confirm or refute. 'Is it true that you were born in 1948?' 'Is it true that you have three children?' Every fact found in my article is checked and confirmed. As editor of the magazine, it is embarrassing to be caught with mistakes, and I hope that there will not be any, but I feel very good when I know there is someone checking up after me."

Remnick then describes the magazine's squad of fact-checkers as "about 20 young employees in their twenties, who specialize in a variety of fields and who care." I remember those fact-checkers from back when I was an intern with the magazine's covers editor. They were mostly awkward hipsters from wealthy families in New England who drank too much at the holiday party, but that, unfortunately, just made them more deadpan.

This article also brings up the question of why Haaretz English articles so often leave much to be desired in the writing department. Israel is overflowing with educated Anglo-Jews who can write and translate and who are willing to do this for very little pay. It's a shame because the Hebrew version of Haaretz is incredibly difficult to read if you're not an Israeli academic that it makes the English look like it's written by a thesaurus-happy high schooler.

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