The big technical news out of New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren recent appearance at Columbia may be that an iPad app for the magazine is still a couple of years away. But it was his explanation for why he replaced Ethicist columnist Randy Cohen with Ariel Kaminer that caught my eye:
“There’s no science to it. We thought the Ethicist franchise … still had some vitality to it and it’d be interesting try a different voice there. And I think there’d been a real male dominated voice. Randy’s an incredibly gifted, funny, smart guy, but he’s definitely a dude and I think a lot of his…” he trailed off. “Is this on the record?”
“Yeah,” Navasky said as Lindgren began to pick back up.
“But he definitely brought a male perspective. And not in a cheesy—he’s a fair-minded, decent guy—but we thought it’d be interesting to try a woman and see what the difference was. And it was just like we thought that’s interesting, so let’s try it.”
That curiosity is heartening. The assumption by powerful men that they can speak for all of humanity, that their opinions and views on the world are just naturally the appropriate default, isn’t just condescending—it’s boring. It’s the mark of a good editor to be looking not just for good new stories, but for good new perspectives, and to be suspicious of whatever has become the default. The Times Magazine as a whole can be kind of dudely. But if Lindgren’s operating under the assumption that dudely isn’t always better, maybe that won’t be the case forever.