[Note to Tomdispatch readers: This is the eighth in an ongoing series of interviews at the site. The last three were with Ann Wright, Mark Danner, and Chalmers Johnson (parts 1 and 2) . Tom]
A World at 36/7 Speed
A Tomdispatch Interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel
You enter the nondescript grey building off a small street just east of Union Square, ride an oh-so-slow elevator up to the 8th floor, and pass into the offices of the Nation magazine, which just turned 141 years old. It is housed in a vast space. Imagine something between an enormous loft and an old press room with a warren of open, half-walled cubicles clustered at its heart and filled with toiling interns, fact-checkers, and assisters of various sorts. Around the rim of the room, the editors have their offices.
Behind a modest expanse of glass, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor, publisher, and part-owner of the magazine, is at her desk, her phone headset on, deep in conversation. In our speeded-up media world in which reporters are constantly sent onto TV as pundits just to get a little attention for increasingly desperate newspapers, vanden Heuvel -- remarkably composed in any talk-show setting -- has become the branded face of her magazine.
On her desk is a half-full in-box, but only, as it happens, because the rest of the desk is bursting with papers, stacks of them, one of which half-obscures her as she talks. Turning, she spots me at the door. Clad in a black jacket and dark slacks, she rises with a welcoming smile. She's smaller than you might imagine from the television screen and, refreshingly, lacks any evident sense of self-importance.
Her office is neat as a pin, clean as a whistle -- unless you check out the surfaces which are chaos itself: the desk, a riot of paper; the bookshelves, stuffed not only with books but with nesting dolls of every sort, including a Mikhail Gorbachev one, a box of "revolutionary finger puppets," and lots of framed photos. Every inch of the small coffee table near which she seats us is stacked with books, except where a Santa nesting doll ("I did an interview with a Russian journalist and he gave me this") resides near a Talking Clinton doll (with two buttons on its base, one labeled "funny," the other "inspiration").
I settle onto the sofa, place my two little tape recorders precariously atop one of the piles of books, and we begin. Her voice is soft and low, but the minute she starts speaking her face lights with animation and energy fills her small frame.