August 4th, 2004

My Time at Time

Time magazine cover, July 26, 2004A version of this blog post appeared on the Hamilton College Web site (August 30, 2004) and in the Utica Observer-Dispatch (September 1, 2004).

If you’re an undergraduate majoring in political science, attending the 2004 Republican National Convention is something to brag about to classmates. If you’re also an editorial intern at Time magazine, it’s a good reason to miss the first week of classes. If the Time building in which you work is less than 20 blocks away from the convention at Madison Square Garden—and you have a press convention pass—it’s better than college; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Then there are the parties: breakfast with CNN anchors, a forum at the Council on Foreign Relations, lunch with some U.S. senators, dinner at William F. Buckley’s home. Of course, now that I’ve dropped them, I can say that names no longer impress me. Indeed, my office (not a cubicle, by the way) is mere doors away from Joel Stein (columnist); Joe Klein (author of Primary Colors); Romesh Ratnesar (world editor); Nancy Gibbs (the go-to writer for cover stories); Jeffrey Kluger (coauthor of Apollo 13); and Lisa Beyer (nation editor). As a 21-year-old, I only hope my future can compete with my present.

But what a present it has been. For contributions to the Notebook section, which leads the magazine and includes the Performance of the Week, Verbatim, Milestones and X-Number of Years Ago in Time, my name appears each week in print. In the August 2nd issue I received my own byline for a “splash” on forthcoming books related to Donald Trump’s Apprentice show. Two weeks earlier, I transcribed an interview Time’s national political correspondent, Karen Tumulty, conducted with John Kerry and John Edwards. The uncut copy showed some sharp contrasts: Edwards, whose optimistic vocabulary reflected a boyish sunniness, strove to demonstrate deference, only to reveal diffidence, whereas Kerry alternated between undue gravitas, when others laughed, and anger, when Time noted he had said in December that if he were not running, he would vote for Dick Gephardt.

On the lighter side, last week at the famous Avalon nightclub, I attended the book launch for Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale (Regan). So impressed were Jenna’s handlers that Time would cover this event, I found myself interviewing the allegedly “most downloaded woman” and her entourage. In a more tasteful setting, Time’s managing editor once solicited the opinions of the interns on the cover for our Las Vegas story. Out of the five pictures of scantily clad women dancing on a table, which did we prefer and why? It was obvious that the cover would primarily appeal to a young demographic, so I chose the one that displayed an additional girl. (My preference prevailed.)

Two weeks later, we put swimming phenom Michael Phelps on the cover, garbed in an even skimpier Speedo. But whereas Phelps was an easy choice, discussion over a subsequent cover pitted Michael Moore and his blockbuster documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, against Saturn and the Cassini-Huygens probe then orbiting the planet. This made for a challenging and lively debate among the senior editors, and remained unconcluded until Sunday, when Time goes to press.

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