Reader’s Digest writer looks back at the glory days of the magazine
At its peak, Reader’s Digest was the world’s most widely read magazine, with 100 million readers across the globe. Its 39 international editions in 15 languages were tailored to serve local cultures and interests. The company’s books, music collections and family videos also were bestsellers worldwide. This legendary publishing giant owed its huge success to the vision and editorial genius of a man named DeWitt Wallace.
In 1922, when Wally founded the magazine, many considered him a 32-year-old failure without a permanent job. Others believed in his dream. In fact, it was a $5,000 loan that enabled Wally to launch his little magazine. It spawned a global publishing empire with a worldwide reach and a remarkable reputation for journalist integrity and impeccably researched articles. In those days Reader’s Digest took no advertising and reserved its back cover for fine art.
Now John G. Hubbell, one of the magazine’s most talented and prolific writers, has written a memoir titled, “Writing for Wally: My Life with a Brilliant Idea.” The book describes how Wally nurtured and invested in his writers, resulting in a steady stream of exceptional articles every month. Readers are taken back to that halcyon time when editorial excellence was an overarching goal, unhindered by expectations of increasing quarter-over-quarter earnings by shareholders and Wall Street.
Full disclosure of bias: Thirty years ago in New York, I was hired away from AT&T to establish a worldwide public relations department for The Reader’s Digest Association – to support not only the flagship magazine but also the company’s other products and its legendary foundations that gave so generously to education, youth organizations, libraries, the arts and other charitable causes. This was a dream job that brought me together with brilliant people like opera singer Beverly Sills, educator Jaime Escalante (inspiration for the “Stand and Deliver” movie), cellist Mstislav Rostopovich, plus outstanding writers like Alex Haley (“Roots”), Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”) and, of course, John Hubbell. My admiration for these and so many others from my Reader’s Digest years are why I loved John’s book and donated a copy to our library.
In “Writing for Wally,” John tells of his 41 years as a Reader’s Digest roving editor in short chapters with fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about his life and his 140-plus articles. Many covered military affairs on subjects like the Strategic Air Command’s survival training, the U.S. Navy’s submarine training, NASA’s space flight simulator, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered attack sub, the Army’s Green Berets and the Navy’s SEALs, the case of a missing H-bomb, and the plight of POWs in Vietnam. John also wrote softer stories for the magazine, notably family humor pieces.
For lifelong fans of Reader’s Digest, this book will be a reminder of the days when we were both informed and enriched by popular media. For those exposed mostly to today’s celebrity-focused infotainment, it may be an inspiration for a return to editorial excellence and the glory years of print journalism.
Bees here tomorrow
Join us for the free Family Fridays program tomorrow (March 6) from 2-3:30 p.m., timed so that children can come after school. This is a special time every week for the whole family to come to the library together – parents with kids, all siblings regardless of age, or whatever combination of the family is available at that particular time. Each week features a different activity. Tomorrow’s program is titled “Bees, Beekeeping and the World,” presented by the Archuleta County Farm Bureau. There will be a beekeeper, hopefully with bees, dressed in beekeeping attire, to answer questions and share how bees affect all of our lives. This program is for all ages. No registration required.
Stress coping techniques
Save the date for Stress Less presented by the Pagosa Springs Medical Center next Thursday, March 12 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. You will learn techniques for lasting stress relief.
Free Otaku Club
Otaku Club for teens who admire Japanese culture and crafts like anime and manga takes place today (Thursday, March 5) from 4 – 5:15 p.m. Characters welcomed. Snacks provided.
Free tweens book club
If you’re in the fourth-sixth grades, like to read and share what you read with friends, this is the club for you. On Wednesday, March 11 from 4-5 p.m. we’ll be discussing a nonfiction book and pick up our next book to read.
Free book club for adults
Our adult book club meets the second Tuesday of each month from 2-3 p.m. to discuss alternating fiction and nonfiction titles. On March 10 we will discuss “The Color of Water” by James McBride. If you need a copy, please contact Meg Wempe. No registration required.
Free teen gaming
Join us every Tuesday from 4 – 5:30 p.m. for fun for teen gaming fans. Practice your skills on the Wii and Xbox as well as board games
Free technology classes
Meg Wempe is available for the highly popular Tech Tuesdays and Thursdays sessions 10-noon Tuesdays and 3-5 p.m. Thursdays. Drop in with your technology questions. More formal sessions requiring advance registration focus on Facebook Basics for individuals (not businesses) from 11:30 – 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday, March 5). Then next Thursday, March 12 at the same time is an Excel Intermediate class.
“Three Amigos” is a comedy starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short. “Fight Club” is an R-rated “savagely funny” comedy. “Femme Fatale” is a two-DVD set of classic films. “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” star Humphrey Bogart. “Fresh” is an action film starring Samuel L. Jackson. “Shane” is a western starring Alan Ladd. “From Here to Eternity” is a love story in war that won eight Oscars. “Steel Magnolias” stars six divas on the silver screen. “The Adventures of Clutch Powers” is the first LEGO movie on TV. “Young Frankenstein” is a Mel Brooks comedy.
Come in and take a look at the wide variety of music CDs we have available to borrow, thanks to donations from patrons like you. You’ll find blue grass, classical, jazz, rock and more for your enjoyment.
Thanks to our donors
For books and materials, we thank Barb Draper, Barron Haley, Carole Sheets, Carmen Ferguson, Kristal Fortune, Mary Wilcox and our many anonymous donors.
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” – Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), German-born poet, novelist and short story writer.