|February 22, 2001
Volume 31 Number 11
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Popular Time Editor Lectures
Even though he finds writing about himself endlessly fascinating, columnist Joel Stein still seems awed that other people like to read about him, a self-deprecating upstart that has landed a dream job at Time Magazine.
As a guest on February 6 of CSU, Chico's Department of Journalism and the student chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, this funny, irreverent, and cheerfully good-looking Stanford graduate revealed the secrets to his success -- dumb luck and bumbling.
Noting that the move from hard news to story-telling in journalism seems self-serving and not all that interesting, Stein nonetheless admitted it's never stopped him.
With a column for Time Out New York and a short stint at Martha Stewart Living magazine under his belt, Stein endured two lean years before he wowed Time editor Walter Isaacson with his laid back style.
Hired to cover Chelsea Clinton's Stanford life, Stein found, like the rest of America's journalists, that he wasn't about to get near the president's daughter. So he ditched the traditional story, and instead wrote about his own Stanford experience.
It worked, and he was soon writing his regular celebrity Q&A's for Time ("I've been hung up on by some of the world's most talented people"), straight stories such as his recent take on the XFL ("I heard the cheerleaders were going to Hooters so I followed them"), and his popular column, where he tackles issues such as the horrors of retaking the SAT as an adult, and gambling to humiliate others.
"The column was supposed to be straight news stuff," Stein recalled, "but it was too much work for them to keep on my ass, and eventually I wore them down."
Calling himself lucky, Stein said his break came solely because "one guy who ran a magazine thought I was good." He added that not all his colleagues at Time like his work. Some even think he's destroying the magazine's reputation for hard news.
But he's also credited with bringing young readers into the fold and helping to jump start Time's circulation, stagnant since 1994.
And if CSU, Chico's delighted student crowd was any litmus test, he's caught the spirit of a generation.
Managing to be both sweetly naive and bitingly honest, Stein's columns, like Stein himself, lend a parenthetical phrase to life. A court jester bending your ear. And if not, as he told students, "At least I've said enough to earn you extra credit tonight."
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