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Editor's Desk: A Stern View from the Bow

Editor's Desk: A Stern View from the Bow

7 Mins
May 12, 2011

July/August 2007 -- Okay, I know, that’s a cheap pun. But this July–August 2007 issue marks the start of my third year at the helm of The New Individualist, and that gives me cause to reflect on where The New Individualist has been and where it’s headed. So, I thought I’d take a break from the usual opinionating you find here and instead share with you, our loyal readers, some of those reflections.

When I was first asked to take this position, I felt considerable trepidation. The reasons were several—among them, the simple fact that while I’d edited smallish publications in the past, I’d never run a magazine before. The task facing me was more challenging than that, however. I was told to change the magazine—to move it more in the direction of a popular “outreach” publication. I was to aim it not at the very limited audience already familiar with the Objectivist philosophy, but to direct it toward a much broader readership of opinion leaders and educated, intellectually active individuals.

To achieve that objective, I knew, the magazine had to be brought up to competitive industry standards. That meant I had to increase its size from twenty to over sixty pages (the newsstand minimum) and to improve its look and graphic appeal.

Since pages don’t fill themselves, expanding the size of the magazine required me to add a lot of new writing talent. During the past two years, I’ve been pleased to publish a host of provocative, knowledgeable authors, among them: Bruce Thornton, Stephen Green, Sara Pentz, Michelle Marder Kamhi, Ilana Mercer, Lou Villadsen, David M. Brown, Duncan Scott, Henry Mark Holzer, John Berlau, Robert Huberty, Walter Donway, Anthony Mirvish, Marsha Enright, Jennifer Litz, Marimer Navarrete, David M. Brown, C.A. Baylor, Scott Wheeler, Lance Lamberton, Alec Mouhibian, Hugo Schmidt, James Joyner, Don Hauptman, Sherrie Gossett (my intrepid managing editor), and, with this issue, Taylor Dinerman and David Hogberg. One of my happiest early discoveries was Robert L. Jones, whose spirited reviews add so much color and spice to TNI every month.

These wonderful contributors (and more are on the way) have richly supplemented the efforts of names familiar to long-time readers: David Kelley, Ed Hudgins, and Roger Donway. Ed and Roger, especially, have written copiously for the magazine on a wide range of topics. Roger, in addition to his monthly column and articles, also helps tremendously with copyediting, as does the peerless Shaynee Snider. If what you read here makes any sense, Roger and Shaynee deserve much of the credit. (If ever it doesn’t make sense, the blame rests completely on my shoulders.)

While I’m singing the praises of people who rarely get the public accolades they deserve, let me name four more who are invaluable and simply irreplaceable.

The first is Sherrie Gossett. If I never make another good decision in my life, I will be forever credited for hiring Sherrie as managing editor of TNI. The day I took over, the magazine was behind schedule, and I spent the next year trying desperately and futilely to catch up. It was too much for me to handle not just the editing but the publishing end, as well. A year ago, brimming with confidence and competence, Sherrie charged in and took off my plate everything unrelated to my editor-in-chief duties. For me, her energy, vision, intelligence, and commitment have been a dream come true. Thanks to Sherrie, TNI is now bigger and better than ever, gaining greater public visibility and influence by the day, and published on time. There’s not enough paper in my printer to tell you just how big a role she’s played in the transformation of The New Individualist that you’ve seen so far, so I’ll just stop here.

The second person is Gene Holloway, the irreplaceable director of operations for our publisher, The Atlas Society. Gene's indefatigable support of the magazine has been instrumental in paving the way for the actualization of TNI's goals, which are ever-expanding. Great leadership often entails the removal of obstacles, and Gene is a genius in this area. That's not surprising since he has years of experience removing obstacles to critical strategic goals in the Navy and in corporations. Gene continues to be a constant source of high inspiration for our staff.

The other two individuals are Allen Tomlinson and David Sims of A. Tomlinson/Sims Advertising (ATSA) in Florence, Alabama. David is responsible for the design and graphics of our magazine and of related promotional materials. Sometimes this includes staging and directing custom photo shoots in ATSA's studio, or on location. Love our covers? You have David to thank. Allen advises TNI on advertising strategies and facilitates the production flow of the magazine, from layout to the printer then mailer—all of which are based in Alabama. Every month, Allen joins TNI staff in Washington for our monthly brainstorming meetings.

To all, thanks for everything you’ve brought to The New Individualist.

Expanding the content and quality of TNI was the first step of the transformation I sought to make. But redirecting that content has been an equally critical priority.

By definition, all improvement entails change, and all change requires you to give up something you have in order to gain something you want even more. In order to reach broader audiences who are relatively unfamiliar with our philosophy, I’ve had to risk alienating the occasional reader who prefers that we continue to publish more abstract or theoretical essays that address their special interests.

But clearly, that “inreach” focus isn’t compatible with the objective of an “outreach” magazine. That’s why the subject of The New Individualist is not philosophy as such or the Objectivist philosophy specifically. The subject of TNI is the world—as seen through the eyes of writers who agree with our basic premises (at least insofar as their particular articles are concerned).

So, you’ve seen us move steadily away from “insider” topics, references, and jargon. That trend will continue. After all, you don’t converse with your neighbor as if he’s read all the same books that you have and shares the same views. Instead, you engage him on the basis of common values and interests. It’s the same here. Topical values and interestsare the hooks upon which we’ll hang our articles in TNI.

What does that mean for the future of the magazine?

It means that you’ll see a greater mix of topics and personalities. While we’ll continue to provide articles and essays that offer principled analyses of our world, we’re not going to limit ourselves to that. Instead, you’ll see more articles that are simply of interest to a principled individualist. Not all of those articles will be “preachy,” either. Anyone who’s ever answered a doorbell and opened it to a religious zealot knows that a little of that sort of thing goes a long way.

This new content may well include some “lifestyle” features for those of an independent, adventurous, and romantic spirit. After all, not all of life is (or should be) spent merely discussing “life” as an abstract topic. A philosophy exists to be lived. And surveys we’ve conducted suggest that readers want more articles that can help them enhance their daily lives, in addition to improving their understanding of the world. We’re also experimenting with adding some journalistic features that will provide news that you might not hear from mainstream media sources.

Lastly, I don’t want to rely quite as heavily on a small cadre of writers, as good as they may be. You’ve already told us that you’d like to hear a variety of “voices” in the magazine, and so I’m working diligently to bring them here.

In 2008, we aim to roll out to the newsstands, and our current transition efforts are geared to make sure that we succeed with an attractive national magazine.

As a reader, you can help guide our evolution in that direction. Please, tell us what you’d like to see more of—or less of—in The New Individualist. Do you want new features? Specific authors? Cartoons? Technology reviews? Advice columns? Are there things we do now that you don’t like? Tell us.

Drop us a letter, or send an e-mail to Sherrie or me: sgossett (at) atlassociety.org, or rbidinotto(at) atlassociety.org. We’ll keep your opinions strictly confidential.

But there’s one thing that will not change about The New Individualist: our commitment to the philosophy of reason, individualism, and capitalism. That’s the immutable framework for what appears in these pages. It’s the principled foundation for our advocacy mission. And so it shall remain.

You can count on that for as long as I stand here at the bow.

Robert James Bidinotto
About the author:
Robert James Bidinotto
Journalism and Media