Times Magazine Editor Hugo Lindgren Goes to School

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Photo via NYU

When Hugo Lindgren took over as editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine in 2010, publisher Arthur Sulzberger asked whether he was going to keep the magazine’s signature “On Language” column.

“I hope I’m not talking out of school here,” Mr. Lindgren said, recollecting the incident. But in fact, he was talking in a school. He was addressing the magazine program at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

“Maybe in some way,” Mr. Lindgren hedged at the time.

“I think you should just dump it,” the publisher responded.

Mr. Lindgren told a roomful of journalism students about his adventures reinventing the Sunday insert. The journalism students mostly asked for pitching advice.

Meryl Gordon, the director of the magazine program, asked Mr. Lindgren about running a magazine that is included in the Sunday Times rather than sold separately on a newsstand.

Mr. Lindgren mentioned the recent Vanity Fair cover that featured Katie Holmes.

“It was just a write-around on stuff that’s been covered by the New York Post,” said Mr. Lindgren, who said he hasn’t read the story. Mr. Lindgren said he would have put Michael Lewis’ exclusive profile of Barack Obama (a story which made him “fueled with envy”) on the cover – but then again, that’s one of the luxuries of the Times Mag.

Another perk of the NYTM is that the magazine doesn’t have to respond to current events – the paper takes care of that.

Ms. Gordon mentioned John Jeremiah Sullivan’s popular 2011 piece about getting stoned at Disney World.

“I was shocked and amazed that we got to do that at the New York Times,” Mr. Lindgren said. Although he loved the idea when he first heard it, he had to check withstandards editor Phil Corbett.

Mr. Corbett responded with a casual “no problem.”

Ms. Gordon asked if the magazine’s younger staff writers mean “there is hope for these students.”

Kind of! Mr. Lindgren suggested pitching.

“Risk being a pest, especially if you want to be a journalist,” said Mr. Lindgren. “Follow up and appeal to an editor’s sense of guilt.”

The students wrote that down.