In an often-humorous speech, Victor Navasky, legendary editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, skewered what he considers the pretensions of objectivity displayed by the “center” press and lauded the clarifying honesty of journals of opinion. Navasky was at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus on Nov. 27 to accept the 2006 Ann M. Sperber Biography Award for his memoir, A Matter of Opinion (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005).
“This idea that people who write for a paper like [The New York Times] are not suppose to have ideas of their own, or if they do they are suppose to keep them to themselves and somehow that is a good thing, I don’t believe that,” Navasky said. “In fact, I believe, ironically, one of the arguments for journals like The Nation or National Review or The Weekly Standard is that the reader is put on notice about the values that inform the journal that they are reading. So [readers]have a better chance, if they don’t like those values, to look at them more closely. Whereas, if they are told … that ‘we’re not ideological; there are no values that inform what we do’ they are not put on notice, and to me that is not good for the democratic dialogue.”
Navasky, who was referred to in a New York Times book review as “the avatar of the left,” spent 27 years at the center of that democratic dialogue as the editor and publisher of The Nation, from which he retired in 2005. It is his long love affair with feisty, opinionated magazines (he started his own satirical magazine,Monocle, while still a law student at Yale University) and The Nation, in particular, that animates much of his memoir.
The Sperber award, which was established by a gift from Liselotte Sperber in memory of her daughter Ann M. Sperber, author of a Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography of Edward R. Murrow, is presented to a writer who has demonstrated exceptional achievement in writing and research and has published a biography in the field of journalism or media studies.