I was dumbfounded. After four years and five months, I’ve written only 100 columns? How can that be? I would tell you that we redid the math a number of times, but that would just be embarrassing to admit.
Trying to put a positive spin on the news (because that’s just the kind of person I am), I thought that perhaps hitting 100ish might be some sort of editorial milestone for the magazine. I mean, I’ve been with this company a long time. I’ve known a lot of the editors. And I think I must be up there in job longevity.
Unlike the sports realm, the magazine world (at least my magazine world) doesn’t keep a lot of historical scores and stats — or really any scores and stats that don’t have dollar signs in front of them. This, I realized, was going to take some research. So instead of tackling the stories and e-mails that were waiting to be read and answered, I went into our archives and began digging.
Here’s what I found: In the 40-plus years the magazine has been around, it has had about 20 editors. In the early days, it seems, most of those people averaged a couple of years in the position. Buoyed by this information, I thought I might be on to something.
But then I came to November 1977, when a man named Walter Damtoft moved to the head of the class — and he stayed there for almost a decade. I felt doomed. I don’t have even half that! But all was not lost. Because, you see, Mr. Damtoft never wrote an Editor’s Note — or any kind of note. We only know that he was the editor because he’s listed as such in the magazine’s masthead. So while I don’t have his staying power (yet), I definitely exceed him in number of columns written. I continued digging.
Things started to get dicey again when I entered the ’90s — which, interestingly enough, was about the time I came to work here. Since 1989, there have been five editors, including me and not including the great Jim Shahin, who was “editor at large” for exactly three issues but didn’t meet my strict criteria because he never wrote an editor’s column during that time.
Of those five editors, one lasted four years and seven months (I’m just a few rounding errors away), and another was here for, alas again, five years and two months.
So it seems that while my numbers are good, they are not the best. However, goals are an important part of reaching our personal bests. And really, what’s nine more months if it means I get to be the longest column-writing editor in the history of American Way? Now I’m on a mission.
But if for some reason I don’t make it, I’ll be able to write about the heartbreaking moment that ended it all. See? A win-win.
Sherri Gulczynski Burns