Editor of Harper's Out

The NYT offers competing information as to whether Harper’s editor Rodger Hodge stepped down or was dismissed, but either way he’s been replaced by managing editor Ellen Rosenbush.

This information piqued my interest since I’ve perceived a decline in quality at Harper’s since longtime editor Lewis Lapham quit in 2006. I’ve been a subscriber for a while now (it’s hard not to when they practically give it away and let you have access to 100+ years of archives with a subscription), and there just haven’t been that many stories that have a) grabbed me; or b) felt like they were really that essential. If anything, the blog has been the site of Harper’s most consistently interesting political reporting of late, and whoever decided to give it to Scott Horton (whose piece “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides': A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle” is essential reading) made a great choice.

In terms of the book coverage, there have been some nice pieces; see, for instance, “Ways of not seeing: On the limits of design fetishism” by Mark Kingwell, or about anything Wyatt Mason has written for Harper’s recently. But there have also been some downright disappointing and/or bizarre inclusions; Dave Hickey’s essay on Reborn, Susan Sontag’s diaries, stands out as bizarre, and Francine Prose’s literary criticism has been distinctly lackluster. And I’ve long been mystified as to why they keep publishing William H. Gass’s pocket biographies of great authors instead of actual criticism.

But anyway, here’s to change and some hopes that Harper’s starts hitting the high note a little more often.


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I have to say that I kind of wonder if Hodge’s rumored dismissal has something to do with the searing editorial he opened the latest issue of the magazine with. Though Harper’s editorial introductions are known to be polemical in the extreme, this was even, I think, a bit outside the ballpark of tradition. Among other things, he likens Obama to Dick Cheney. The piece was off putting, not in its slant or subject exactly, but because it read as a smear without any evidence to back it up. Even Lapham would hoist out the occasional fact or anecdotal bit.

Just a thought…

Travis,

That’s a fair question. Though I think dismissal over just that would be a little extreme, I have had people make similar comments to me on that particular editorial. Of course, you could look at it the other way and say Hodge saw what was coming and wanted to go out in a blaze.

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