September 7, 2016
Lame Duck, Hip Magazine
by Ryan Harrington
I have long suspected that it is the ambition of every warm-blooded person to become an editor. No matter your current profession, I have a hard time believing that you don’t spend much of your eight-, nine-, ten-hour day fantasizing of getting your fingers inky at an editorial desk for a magazine or book publisher. And I have written in this space about Hollywood’s glamorization of the profession, but it wasn’t until this past week that my suspicions were confirmed.
Confirmation came in the form of the announcement that none other than Barack Obama will be guest editing the November issue of the leading technology and culture magazine, Wired. Even the most powerful man on earth wants a piece of this action.
The future-minded theme of the issue will be “Frontiers,” something Fourty-Four knows a thing or two about. As Wired’s Editorial Director Robert Capps put it:
For this completely bespoke issue, [Obama] wants to focus on the future—on the next hurdles that humanity will need to overcome to move forward. These will include personal frontiers, from precision medicine to human performance; local frontiers, including using data in urban planning and making sure renewable energy works for everyone; national frontiers, from civil rights to medical data; international frontiers, like climate change and cybersecurity; and final frontiers, including space travel and Artificial Intelligence.
POTUS is in some pretty classy company, as Bill Gates, Christopher Nolan, and Serena Williams have all guest-edited past issues of the magazine. But it runs deeper than that: Wired’s brass insists that this type of presidential engagement with technology is at the very heart of our republic, from Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with electricity to Thomas Paine’s repudiation of his copyright to get Common Sense more widely distributed.
And as Niraj Chokshi reminds us in the New York Times’ coverage of the story, “The Wired arrangement won’t be the president’s first foray into editing, either. In 1990, he became the first black editor in the history of the Harvard Law Review.”
You can pick up the special issue at a newsstand near you on October 25. Or if you’re really into new frontiers, you can read it online or on a tablet starting October 18.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.