“What are you reading at the moment?” asked Jeremy Keehn, managing editor of The Walrus.
“Um… well, the new Harry Potter,” I said, face turning red.
Harry Potter?! Here I was squaring off against three editors and a no doubt highly-skilled intern at Canada’s most lauded magazine – and a bespectacled wizard was the best I could do?
Why I forgot to mention my subscriptions to the Toronto Star (I like Tyler Hamilton’s energy coverage), Toronto Life (for the lowdown on the city) and Green Futures (the best sustainability coverage anywhere), is depressingly obvious.
I had a lot riding on this and was suffering a rare case of intimidation. I’d battled through the first two challenges of internship survivor and it was down to the final fourteen. The setup was deliberately designed to rattle. Four panelists sat on one side of a long table, a glass of water placed opposite, pointed to my seat. All the 2007 issues of The Walrus were neatly fanned out in front of me. “Hope you know what’s inside each one of us,” they whispered.
“What does the magazine do badly?” asked Keehn
“Yes, is there anything you’ve come across that makes you want to stop reading and throw down the magazine?” senior editor, Nora Underwood, added helpfully.
I prayed for an immunity idol. Living in England for most of the magazine’s short life, I left the Canuck publication behind in favour of all things British: magazines from the Sunday Observer and Times carried me through the week, with New Scientist and HELLO! rounding out my essential reading list.
So I had some catching up to do. I plowed through back issues, taking note of the pieces and writers I liked best, and skimming over the stuff that annoyed me or made my eyelids droop.
Which issue had featured Ken Alexander’s editorial on the internet generation? Where he dismisses citizen journalism and credits YouTube and MySpace as a bit of fun before deeming them – and an entire generation – as ultimately vacuous? And what about his editorial on Lewis Lapham’s new history journal? While the publication will no doubt be worth reading, Alexander’s convoluted prose and long sentences meant I had to read it twice to get his point. Even then, it says little of what we can expect from the magazine, spending more time fawning over a fellow editor.
When I got home, I leafed through the magazines and found the editorials for a good half hour of self-torture.
Could I sue my game face for abandonment? Reduced to a bundle of nerves, relying on notes, stumbling over answers and experiencing flashes of amnesia – I could have done better.