by Max Brantley
UPDATE: He'll talk about his vision for the magazine in an appearance at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 at the Clinton School. He says more journalism is in the offing for the magazine, in addition to fiction and cultural writing. More details in news release on jump.
Marc Smirnoff, the founding editor of the magazine, was fired recently.
Hodge is the author of "The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism." He was fired at Harper's in 2010 in what appeared to be a personal dispute with the publisher.
Hodge, who grew up in Texas and went to college at Sewanee, steered clear of the recent OA dispute in an interview with the Times.
The offer to edit the magazine was unexpected, Mr. Hodge said in an interview, adding that he has deliberately stayed uninformed of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Smirnoff’s departure.
“It’s an awful thing for the individuals concerned and for the institution and I just want to move on from it,” he said. “I just want to make a good magazine.”
Noted: NY Times article says he'll edit from afar, commuting to Arkansas for the "foreseeable future" rather than uprooting wife and family.
He met with the staff and magazine board in mid-August. Publisher Warwick Sabin was quoted:
“He brings impeccable literary credentials as well as a rigorous experience editing Harper’s Magazine,” Mr. Sabin said. “Roger is a son of the South, having been born in Texas and educated at Sewanee. Roger has an intuitive understanding of the unique spirit and character of The Oxford American, and he is the perfect person to shepherd it in a rapidly evolving publishing landscape.”
Hodge presumably won't be paid commensurate with what he once made at Harper's, which operates as a nonprofit. According to tax records, Hodge made about $190,000 in pay as editor in 2009 and 2010, plus $18,000 in other compensation in each year. He got about $121,0000 total in 2011 as "former editor." In 2010, Smirnoff was paid $50,000, plus about $3,000 in other compensation by OA, also operated as a non-profit, but with much smaller revenues ($1.4 million in 2010 to Harper's $8.4 million)
Read on for Oxford American release.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (September 11, 2012) — Roger D. Hodge is the new editor of The Oxford American, becoming only the second editor in the magazine's 20-year history.
Hodge was the editor of Harper’s Magazine from 2006-2010, and during his tenure the magazine was a National Magazine Award finalist seven times, winning in 2007 for fiction and in 2010 for reporting.
"The appointment of Roger Hodge as editor of The Oxford American will begin an exciting new era for the magazine," said Warwick Sabin, publisher of The Oxford American. "He brings impeccable literary credentials as well as a rigorous experience editing Harper's Magazine. Roger is a son of the South, having been born in Texas and educated at Sewanee. Roger has an intuitive understanding of the unique spirit and character of The Oxford American, and he is the perfect person to shepherd it in a rapidly evolving publishing landscape."
"The Oxford American has done a favor and a service to both its readers and its writers," said Lewis H. Lapham, Hodge's predecessor as editor at Harper's Magazine. "Roger Hodge's aversion to nonsense follows from his respect for the meanings of words and his faith in the first-person singular."
“This is an exciting moment for magazines, and for literary journalism in particular,” Hodge said. “People have grown weary of the 24-hour news cycle. They're hungry for good stories, for vital narratives that help them make sense of a disorienting world. I can’t think of a better venue for such writing than The Oxford American.”
Hodge began his journalism career in 1989 as a freelance writer in North Carolina. After a lengthy detour through the thickets of academic philosophy, he was hired by Harper’s Magazine as a fact checker in 1996. He joined the magazine’s acclaimed “Readings” section in 1997 and edited the section from 1999 to 2003. Under his leadership the section strengthened its political and literary focus while continuing to publish comic and historically significant primary documents, as well as a selection of the best poems and essays from the little magazines and forthcoming books. In December 2000 Hodge orchestrated the relaunch of the magazine’s website and created the popular “Weekly Review,” a deadpan satire of the twenty-four hour news feed. In the fall of 2003 Hodge left the “Readings” section to devote more of his attention to long-form journalism. In December 2003 he oversaw another redesign of Harpers.org; that month he also began writing a monthly print column, “Findings,” a sardonic portrait of recent medical, scientific, and environmental developments. He was named Deputy Editor in November 2004 and became Editor in April 2006.
Since leaving Harper’s in 2010, Hodge has written one book of political argument, The Mendacity of Hope (Harper), and many articles and essays for magazines such as Texas Monthly, Men’s Journal, The London Review of Books, Book Forum, and Popular Science. He was a National Magazine Award finalist for Reviews and Criticism for his 2006 Harper’s essay, “Blood and Time: Cormac McCarthy and the Twilight of the West.” Hodge is currently writing a book, forthcoming from Knopf, about life in the West Texas borderlands, where his family has been in the ranching business since the 1850s.
Hodge succeeds Marc Smirnoff, who founded The Oxford American in 1992 and served as its editor until July 15, 2012.
About The Oxford American
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, The Oxford American is a national magazine dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing, while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South. Billed as "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing," it has won three National Magazine Awards and other high honors since it began publication in 1992. The magazine has featured the original work of such literary powerhouses as Charles Portis, Roy Blount, Jr., ZZ Packer, Donald Harington, Donna Tartt, Ernest J. Gaines, and many other distinguished authors, while also discovering and launching the most promising writers in the region. The magazine has also published previously unseen work by such Southern masters as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, James Agee, Zora Neale Hurston, James Dickey, and Carson McCullers, to name just a handful. The New York Times recently stated that The Oxford American "may be the liveliest literary magazine in America."
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 AT 6PM
Clinton School of Public Service’s Distinguished Speaker Series
Roger Hodge will join writer and editor Jay Jennings on stage to discuss his vision for The Oxford American and what readers can expect from his leadership of the magazine. See http://www.clintonschoolspeakers.com/ for location and further details.
For more information, visit oxfordamerican.org.