The New Yorker is an American magazine that publishes reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. Starting as a weekly in the mid-1920s, the magazine is now published 47 times per year, with five of these 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 on world politics and social issues; and its famous, single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.
Although the magazine never lost its touches of humor, it soon established itself as a preeminent 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 20th and 21st centuries, including Ann Beattie, John Cheever, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Vladimir Nabokov, John O'Hara, Philip Roth, J.D. Salinger, Irwin Shaw, John Updike, E. B. White and Richard Yates. 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 recent years the pace has 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. Recent 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 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 in recent years 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. And despite some changes, the magazine has kept much of its traditional appearance over the decades in typography, layout, covers, and artwork.
Ross was succeeded by William Shawn (1951–1987), followed by Robert Gottlieb (1987–1992) and Tina Brown (1992–1998). Brown's nearly six-year tenure attracted the most controversy, thanks to her high profile (a marked contrast to that of the retiring Shawn) and changes she made to the magazine that had retained a similar look and feel for the previous half century. She included the use of color (several years before The New York Times also adopted color on its pages) and photography, less type on each page and a generally more modern layout. More substantively, she increased the coverage of current events and hot topics such as celebrities and business tycoons and placed short pieces throughout "Goings on About Town," including a racy column about nightlife in Manhattan. A new letters to the editor page and adding authors’ bylines to their "Talk of the Town" pieces had the effect of making the magazine more personal and, along with the other changes, served to erode its perceived reputation for perhaps over-exquisite refinement. The current editor of The New Yorker is David Remnick, who took over in 1998 from Brown. The magazine was acquired by Advance Publications in 1985, the media company owned by S.I. Newhouse.
The magazine played a role in a major literary scandal and defamation lawsuit over two articles by Janet Malcolm about Sigmund Freud's legacy, that appeared in the 1990s. Questions were raised about the magazine's fact-checking process.
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). As well, The New Yorker's cartoons are available for purchase online. A complete archive of back issues from 1925 to April 2007 (representing more than 4,000 issues and half a million pages) is available on nine DVD-ROMs or on a small portable hard drive.
A New Yorker look-alike, Novy Ochevidets (The New Eyewitness), was launched in Russia in 2004. It folded in January, 2005 after five months of circulation.
In September 2007, the magazine announced that longtime poetry editor Alice Quinn was leaving and, as of November, Paul Muldoon, an Irish native and U.S. citizen, would be taking over what The Chronicle of Higher Education called "one of the most powerful positions in American poetry".
According to an article about the transition in The New York Times, "The magazine has sometimes been criticized for publishing the same poets repeatedly and playing favorites, but Ms. Quinn said that 85 percent of what she published came to her in the mail 'with little or no notice'. She said that the magazine regularly received more than 600 poems a week."
The New Yorker's stable of cartoonists has included many important talents in American humor, including Charles Addams, Charles Barsotti, George Booth, Roz Chast, Sam Cobean, Helen E. Hokinson, Ed Koren, Mary Petty, George Price, Charles Saxon, Otto Soglow, Saul Steinberg, William Steig, Richard Taylor, Barney Tobey, James Thurber, Richard Decker and Gahan Wilson.
Several of the magazine's cartoons have climbed to a higher plateau of fame: In Carl Rose's cartoon of a mother saying, "It's broccoli, dear," the daughter responds, "I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it." 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 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?"
The most reprinted is Peter Steiner's 1993 drawing of two dogs at a computer, with one saying, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." According to Mankoff, Steiner and the magazine have split more than $100,000 in fees paid for the licensing and reprinting of this single cartoon, with more than half going to Steiner.
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. This features a search function allowing readers to search for cartoons by a cartoonist's name or by year of publication. The newer group of cartoonists in recent years includes Pat Byrnes, Frank Cotham, Michael Crawford, Joe Dator, Drew Dernavich, J.C. Duffy, Carolita Johnson, Zachary Kanin, Glen Le Lievre, Michael Maslin, Ariel Molvig, Paul Noth, David Sipress, Mick Stevens, Julia Suits and Jack Ziegler. The notion that some New Yorker cartoons have punchlines so non sequitur that they are impossible to understand became a subplot in the Seinfeld episode, "The Cartoon", as well as a playful jab in an episode of The Simpsons, The Sweetest Apu.
In April 2005 the magazine began using the last page of each issue for "The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest." Captionless cartoons by The New Yorker's regular cartoonists are printed each week. Captions are submitted by readers, and three are chosen as finalists. Readers then vote on the winner, and any U.S. resident age 18 or older can vote. Each contest winner receives a print of the cartoon (with the winning caption), signed by the artist who drew the cartoon.
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 universally observed style and puts the semicolon after the second quotation mark.
The New Yorker's signature display typeface, used for its nameplate and headlines and the masthead above The Talk of the Town section, is Irvin, named after its creator, the designer-illustrator Rea Irvin.
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, who had moved into the offices to protect his venture with Ross, gathered the Tilley series into a promotion booklet. Later, Ross took a listing for Eustace Tilley in the Manhattan telephone directory.
Traditionally, the Tilley cover illustrated here 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.
The illustration is split in two, with the bottom half of the image showing Manhattan's 9th Avenue, 10th Avenue, and the Hudson River (appropriately labeled), and the top half depicting the rest of the world. The rest of the United States is the size of the three New York City blocks and is drawn as a square, with a thin brown strip along the Hudson representing "Jersey", the names of five cities (Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Kansas City, and Chicago) and three states (Texas, Utah, and Nebraska) scattered among a few rocks for the U.S. beyond New Jersey. The Pacific Ocean, perhaps half again as wide as the Hudson, separates the U.S. from three flattened land masses labeled China, Japan and Russia.
The illustration—humorously depicting New Yorkers' self-image of their place in the world, or perhaps outsiders' view of New Yorkers' self-image—inspired many similar works, including the poster for the 1984 film Moscow on the Hudson; that movie poster led to a lawsuit, Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., 663 F. Supp. 706 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), which held that Columbia Pictures violated the copyright that Steinberg held on his work.
Some of Obama's supporters as well as his presumptive Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, accused the magazine of publishing an incendiary cartoon helping strengthen the rumors and misconceptions in support of his detractors. In April 2008, a Pew Research poll showed that 10 percent of American voters still believe Obama is a Muslim despite his frequent mentions of his Christian beliefs. Editor-in-chief David Remnick said: "The intent of the cover is to satirize the vicious and racist attacks and rumors and misconceptions about the Obamas that have been floating around in the blogosphere and are reflected in public opinion polls. What we set out to do was to throw all these images together, which are all over the top and to shine a kind of harsh light on them, to satirize them, but acknowledged the concern that it can be misunderstood, particularly by those unfamiliar with the magazine. Obama, in an interview on Larry King Live shortly after the magazine issue began circulating, said that he understood the satire, but was disappointed by the results saying, "Well, I know it was The New Yorker's attempt at satire...I don't think they were entirely successful with it...I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead.
New Yorker covers are often only tangentially related to the contents of the magazine, and in this case the article in the July 21 issue about Obama does not discuss the attacks and rumors, but rather Obama's political career to date.