Vital Moments

Ellies and Hors d’Oeuvres

Saluting the victors this week: Sid Holt, John ‘Rick’ MacArthur, Christopher Beha, Clara Jeffery, Jake Silverstein, John Thomason, Carl Swanson, Bill Wasik, Andrea Long Chu, David Haskell, Avery Trufelman, Jia Tolentino, ‘Asparagus Guy’ Dan Souza, Nathan Lump, Katherine Bagley, Jazmine Hughes, Rozina Ali, Rachel Tashjian, Emily Greenhouse, David Remnick, Joe Hagan, Tom Junod, Allison P. Davis, Nicholas Thompson, Jeffrey Goldberg, Adrienne LaFrance, Susan Chira, Brock Colyar, and many more…

A huge amount happened this week, from a widely-celebrated indictment to a despair-inducing arrest, but on Tuesday the country’s magazine community gathered to take stock of last year and celebrate stellar work.


On Tuesday, a black GMC Yukon rolled up to the entrance of Terminal 5, in the upper reaches of Hell’s Kitchen, just before the doors to The National Magazine Awards opened at 5:30 p.m. Magazine eminences slid out and joined the line waiting to pass through the metal detectors. Judges from the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) had met — in-person for the first time since 2020 — earlier this year to select the best work published in 2022. Now, they were coming together to celebrate it. Back in the day, this spectacle unfolded in classic New York venues like Cipriani and The Waldorf Astoria. But the most recent ceremony, after a pause of in-person events for the pandemic, took place at Brooklyn Steel in East Williamsburg. Excitement about the return to Manhattan bounced around the line. Inside, ASME executive director Sid Holt greeted the first attendees with his nervous, curtain-raising showman’s energy. What was his social strategy for the night? “I just keep an eye on ‘Are people moving upstairs?’ At Brooklyn Steel, there was a bottleneck. This is a more capacious space, so we hope to avoid that bottleneck,” he said. “And I have some old friends who will be here and I’ll say hello to them.”

Harper’s president and publisher John “Rick” MacArthur stood behind The Fine Print in line at one of the many bars around Terminal 5, with top editor Christopher Beha right behind him. We asked, were they there to root for Dan? “Dan? Which Dan?” the publisher asked. Beha rolled his eyes. Dan Piepenbring, who wrote the brilliant review of a less-than-brilliant book about Nicolas Cage, had earned Harper’s its sole nomination this year, this reporter explained. “Oh! I thought it was some other Dan,” MacArthur replied. He might be forgiven for not having the writer in mind. It was more than just a particular nomination that brought him to these awards: MacArthur’s a fixture. “I’m amazed to see it so crowded, like the old days,” he said. “They brought it back into the city, they brought it back into New York.” Beha drank his ginger ale.

MacArthur was such a fixture that some of the long-term luminaries on-hand had first met in his employ. ASME president and Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery chatted with New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein. “I got to train Jake in the wonderful art of the Harper’s index,” Jeffery told The Fine Print. “In 1999,” Silverstein said. “See, I didn’t need to hear that,” Jeffery replied. They hadn’t seen each other since last year’s awards. “We’re all going to get Covid, but at least we get to see old friends,” Jeffery said. “Not me,” Silverstein said, “I had it in December.” Did they have plans for post-ceremony celebrations? “They’re still developing, we’ll have to see how the night goes,” said Silverstein. “We’ll end up partying somewhere together, as usually happens.”

There were scattered newcomers. Grist was nominated for the second year in a row in the General Excellence, Literature, Science, and Politics category, and features editor John Thomason had come the previous year, but staff writer Jake Bittle was out for the first time. They sampled the circulating hors d’oeuvres. “Journalists are messy,” Bittle observed. “You must get a lot of people who don’t use the napkins when they’re supposed to.” Thomason leaped to defend the environmental logic of his bare-fingered consumption. “It’s Grist,” he said. “Right,” Bittle said, reciting their exculpatory motto, “Climate. Justice. Solutions.” 

The blue light pervading the space allayed the hygiene worries for some. “This feels like ultraviolet lighting,” noted New York editor-at-large Carl Swanson, “so it kills all the salmonella in the appetizers.” But the light brought out aesthetic concerns in others. “We were just joking about the black light not necessarily being what people dress for,” said New York Times Magazine editorial director Bill Wasik, with a glance at staff writer Wesley Morris, whose bright jacket was glowing. “Wesley looks great in any light,” he added.

New York book critic Andrea Long Chu, whose work was nominated in the Reviews and Criticism category, hadn’t been to an awards show since her senior year of high school. “I went to a tiny conservative Christian school. It was very classically minded,” she said. “I won the Latin award and my Latin teacher gave me an Oxford edition, state of the art for the Latin classes, where even the introduction is in Latin.” She still has that copy of The Aeneid. “I’m looking forward to sitting at a table and rooting. That seems to me like it could be sort of a summer camp vibe: ‘Our cabin is better than your cabins because it’s our cabin,’” she added. “I take it this is why people watch sports.”

New York editor-in-chief David Haskell wandered over. Had he been coaching his writers on how to conduct themselves at the show? “These things are different every year, so I don’t know how that plays,” he said. He was on the verge of accepting the Lifestyle Journalism award for his magazine’s nepo baby package, and graciously said, “excited to see the discourse continue.” The magazine was also a winner in the Single-Topic Issue category for its “Ten Years Since Trayvon” package from last January.

A voice from above invited the milling crowd to sit, the ceremony was about to begin. The Fine Print found a spot between Articles of Interest host Avery Trufelman, nominated in the Podcasting category, and National Geographic editor-in-chief Nathan Lump, whose magazine was nominated in the Photography category. The Harper’s contingent sat a row behind. MacArthur’s running commentary, in a not-quite whisper, floated over the seats. Did nominees get their tickets comped? “We had to buy them,” Trufelman said. “It cost $750. I think a lot of the big places just buy their people a table, but when you’re an indie production, you’re on your own.” 

The big winners were The New York Times Magazine and New York with two winners each. The New Yorker took home only one award, for staff writer Jia Tolentino’s coverage of the aftermath of Roe’s overturning. The Atlantic won the big General Excellence, News, Sports, Entertainment award, The Marshall Project won General Excellence, Special Interest, Grist won its General Excellence category, and Cook’s Illustrated won General Excellence, Lifestyle, and Service. “Thank you so much, I’m the asparagus guy,” said Cook’s Illustrated editor-in-chief Dan Souza, in reference to a cooking video he had appeared in that had recently played for and amused the room, while accepting the award. 

Grist executive editor Katherine Bagley told The Fine Print that it had been a long near-quarter-century on the way to winning. “When it started, it was a blog. It was a tiny, Seattle-based publication and it limped along and had a lot of identity crises. It was really in the last five years that we saw what was happening to climate change within the media landscape and we were like, ‘Okay, we’re planting our flag here,’” she said. “We found our groove.”

New York Times Magazine staff writer Jazmine Hughes, who won the Profile category with her portraits of Viola Davis and Whoopi Goldberg, delivered the sharpest victory speech of the night. “I’m really happy to have this award and this will look really good next to the disciplinary letter I got the other day,” she said, apparently in reference to the letters Times management sent to staff who signed an open letter protesting the paper’s coverage of trans people. Fellow Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon — whose story “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” was singled out both by the open letter, for “uncritically” using “a phrase that vilifies transness” and by ASME judges, for a nomination in the Public Interest category — was in the audience. Times Magazine contributing writer Rozina Ali, who won the Reporting category for “The Battle for Baby L,” delivered a speech with moments nearly as gut-wrenching as her story. “Thank you to my parents who never understood why I wanted to be a journalist,” she said. “Hopefully this will mean something to them.” After the ceremony, she told The Fine Print, “I’m just ecstatic and still in shock.”

In the Reviews and Criticism category, Harper’s Magazine faced off against Harper’s Bazaar. “We dare them to publish some fashion criticism,” Harper’s Bazaar fashion news director Rachel Tashjian, whose criticism was nominated, said when asked to stoke the rivalry. “They should take us on.” In any event, The New York Review of Books bested both Harper’s. “This is the first year The New York Review has entered these daunting ASME sweepstakes,” top editor and oakling Emily Greenhouse told the audience before walking off stage to the step and repeat. New Yorker editor David Remnick rushed over to join his former assistant for a photo with her and her magazine’s award. Greenhouse returned to the table she shared with Paris Review editor Emily Stokes, who serenely sent up vape clouds while waiting to accept the Fiction award.

For the most part, contenders who didn’t get to take home an Ellie maintained an outward equanimity. One writer, however, greeted a running recorder as an opportunity to protest. “I was robbed, fuck this entire institution! No, I take all of it back, I retract it,” said Vanity Fair special correspondent Joe Hagan, whose profile of director Adam McKay won the magazine a nomination. How’s it possible he has yet to win one of these in his illustrious 25-year career? “I don’t know how it all works,” he said, “but follow the money.” ESPN senior writer Tom Junod knew he didn’t need an award to distinguish himself from the crowd. He’d been nominated in the Reporting category for an engrossing and disturbing behemoth co-written with investigative reporter Paula Lavigne, but he would always stand out for his signature turtleneck, red in this instance. “I think I’m the only turtleneck here,” he said. “I expected to see several.” New York features writer Allison P. Davis, who was nominated for her searching essay on Tinder, was so immersed in her subject that her attention shifted to it during the ceremony. “I’m always lowkey swiping during anything,” she said. “No matches here tonight, that would have been the real win.”

Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, and executive editor Adrienne LaFrance were passing around their General Excellence award. “I love our shiny award,” said LaFrance. How were they planning to celebrate? “We’re going to go eat a plate of vegetables with the asparagus guy,” she said. Whereabouts? Just a few blocks away, at Quality Italian. Marshall Project editor-in-chief Susan Chira had more low-key plans to celebrate her publication’s General Excellence distinction. “Writing about criminal justice is really hard. It’s depressing and we struggle to have people stay with us. But it’s so fulfilling to write about people who are often marginalized and ignored, and to reach people who might shut their hearts and their minds to the kinds of issues that we try to highlight,” she’d said during her acceptance speech and that work seemed never-ending. “The truth is we have a big Marshall Project gathering of our board and a panel in Washington first thing tomorrow morning,” she told The Fine Print, “so I have to go home, go to sleep, pack, and get on a train.”

After the ceremony, Tashjian stood chatting by the stage with her Harper’s Bazaar colleagues executive editor Leah Chernikoff and senior digital director Nikki Oguinake when New York features writer Brock Colyar, who’d just won the ASME Next award for journalists under 30, came up. (How old is Colyar now? “25. I’m going to tell everyone 22 tonight though.”) Tashjian revealed that both Colyar and Jazmine Hughes consulted her on their outfits. “I thought I was going to have to go on the stage so I did not go with the see-through option, though that could have been fabulous,” Colyar told her. “If you give me enough backup light, then this one is still see-through.” Tashjian had also seen her old Vanity Fair editor Matt Lynch wearing a perfectly fitted suit and striking newish glasses earlier in the night. “Now there’s a man who doesn’t need my advice,” she said.

New York booked its afterparty at Ray’s, the lower east side bar co-owned by Succession’s “Cousin Greg” Nicholas Braun, a departure from the Adam Moss days when The Spotted Pig was the standby. “From what I understand, we got a booth reserved, not a room, and that place is a madhouse every night,” Colyar fretted. “I think it’s going to be a shitshow.” Haskell blanched slightly when asked whether they’d really only reserved a booth. “No,” he said very quickly, before adding, “I don’t know, maybe. But what I was told was that that was the place that can best accommodate us, so I bet it’s more than a booth.” They ended up with plenty of space. “I suppose I might have been a bit dramatic. That or there was just enough of us that we could take it over,” Colyar later told The Fine Print. “It ended up being perfect. No Cousin Greg fan girls in sight. I think I left at 12:15 and the party was definitely still going.”



7:30 p.m. The literary magazine Fence will celebrate its 25th anniversary and 40th issue at Torn Page in Chelsea. 


7 p.m. Archaeologist David Wengrow will launch the paperback of his book The Dawn of Everything, co-written with the late anthropologist David Graeber, with a conversation with artist Anicka Yi at Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea.


6:30 p.m. Bomb Magazine will host a Spring party, featuring a performance by artist and writer JJJJJerome Ellis, as part of their Analog/Dialog series at the Ace Hotel Brooklyn. 


7 p.m. Christopher Street Magazine co-founder Michael Denneny will discuss his new book On Christopher Street with New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman at the Rizzoli bookstore.  


7 p.m. New York Times and Ebony contributor Dionne Ford will launch her debut memoir Go Back and Get It with a conversation with New York Times Magazine and Harper’s contributor Maud Newton at the Strand’s rare book room.  

7 p.m. Guardian features writer Rose Hackman will discuss her new book Emotional Labor with Teen Vogue columnist Nona Willis Aronowitz at P&T Knitwear on the Lower East Side. 

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