Editor's Note

By Tom Shroder
Sunday, April 5, 2009

I received the following e-mail message in regard to a recent issue featuring stories on parents who accidentally leave children to die in hot cars and the vanishing art of toupee-making:

Mr. Shroder,

Dead babies and toupees. Really?? Did someone TRY to think up the two feature articles most likely to make the reader flip to Tom Sietsema then throw the entire magazine into the recycling bin? Ugh.

Sitting right beneath that message in my inbox was this one:

I just want to tell you that the Washington Post Magazine is outstanding. I simply can not wait to pick it up and I read it from cover to cover. I enjoy Date Lab, restaurant reviews, and more. But the articles of particular interest this time around were the features on the deaths of children in car seats and hair loss restoration.

But wait, there's more! Two other pairs of e-mails received one on top of the other . . .

About this column:

  • A daily newspaper magazine should not have an "editor's note" in the front -- that's not even that welcome in the big glossies. But in a newspaper Sunday magazine -- a note from the editor? That just seems egotistical.
  • Enjoy your column every week (Weingarten's, too) but this week was particularly good. Really hit home for me.

About Second Glance:

  • Since when do readers of the Magazine want to participate in a children's game -- such as the "find the difference in the pictures" thing? Why on earth is that there?
  • One of the highlights of my busy week is getting the Washington Post Magazine on Saturday morning and solving the Second Glance puzzle. This has become a sacred weekly ritual. If this feature were ever discontinued, my Saturdays would seem bleak and I would likely feel destitute.

Maybe this is obvious: Everyone's tastes are different, and in many cases, diametrically opposed. Something Person A loves, Person B is bound to detest. Just look at recent national political campaigns. Extreme polarity has become a defining characteristic of American life. Apparently, the only thing anyone agrees on is Tom Sietsema's Dining column.

Our dilemma as a magazine staff is that we're not happy with pleasing a plurality of readers. Or even a majority. We want everyone to be happy. Of course, that's not likely to happen any given week (see above). But our strategy is to persist through time, and over a great diversity of topics. The goal is to provide readers an intimate experience of the people, places, ideas and events that characterize the Washington region, in a way they can't find anywhere else.

I'm sure you won't hesitate to let us know how we're doing.

Tom Shroder can be reached at shrodert@washpost.com.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company