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The Fight to Find John Wilkes Booth’s Diary in a Forgotten Subway Tunnel

The story of an urban explorer in New York city and his decades-long fight to excavate a four-story wall of rocky debris that he believes contains the lost pages of John Wilkes Booth's diary:

Diamond is a plump, 54-year-old New Yorker with kind, sunken eyes and frazzled hair—what’s left of it. Known in the local papers as “the Tunnel King,” he is an indisputably odd and paradoxical fellow. His acquaintances describe him as “brilliant”—he is an obsessive researcher and prodigious Googler whose living room is filled with piles of books, engineering diagrams and newspaper clippings about the tunnel. But they also say he can be “paranoid” and “hyperbolic” regarding his belief that the city has conspired to keep him out of the tunnel; and that if he gets back inside, he might find the missing pages of Booth’s diary that will prove a cabal of high-ranking, pro-Confederate New York officials plotted to kill Lincoln. When asked about this latter, seemingly preposterous claim, Diamond simply replies, “They used to say the tunnel didn’t exist.”

PUBLISHED: June 10, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5131 words)

The Holy Saint (and Sinner) of Sex Trafficking

Somaly Mam has saved countless girls in Cambodia. Does it matter that her campaign is built on a web of lies?

Mam claims to have rescued thousands of girls and women from sex trafficking, a dangerous and formidable feat. Her story becomes even more inspiring when you hear her shocking tale of being sold into sexual slavery. In 2005, she published her autobiography, The Road of Lost Innocence, which became an international best-seller. Mam was one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2009 and has over 400,000 followers on Twitter.

She has done so much for so many, does it matter that key parts of her story aren’t true? This is a story about a story—but not quite the amazing one Mam has been telling at cocktail parties in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, or on The Tyra Banks Show. Nonetheless, it’s an astonishing tale.

PUBLISHED: May 21, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3694 words)

The Good Girls Revolt: When 46 Women Sued Newsweek for Discrimination

Following this week's news about the firing of Jill Abramson from the New York Times and the discussion of gender pay disparity, here's some historical context: The full opening chapter of Lynn Povich's book, The Good Girls Revolt, about the first female class action lawsuit against Newsweek. Thanks to Povich and PublicAffairs for allowing us to reprint the excerpt.
PUBLISHED: May 16, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3368 words)

Vanity Fair, The Rebirth

Condé Nast executives, editors, designers and writers look back on the 1983 relaunch of Vanity Fair, which originally stopped publishing in 1936 and had been folded into Vogue:

As word leaked out that the company was pumping more than $10 million into the magazine, the sniping began. An enterprising Chicago Tribune reporter tracked down Clare Boothe Luce, who had been a V.F. managing editor in the 30s, and asked her what she made of the relaunch. “I do wish the new magazine could be as wonderful as the old,” she said, “but I don’t see how it can.” New York magazine also weighed in, long before the debut, with a skeptical piece reporting that Locke’s job was in jeopardy. Newsweek joined the fun, too, calling the prototype “aggressively ugly” and averring that there was an “uncertainty about Vanity Fair’s editorial focus.”

PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7759 words)

Reading List: Fashion Week

New reading list from Emily Perper featuring picks from Utne Reader, The New Inquiry, Refinery 29, and Newsweek.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 22, 2013

The Summer of Love and Newsweek

The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg reflects on his early career working as a correspondent for Newsweek in San Francisco, covering Jefferson Airplane, Ronald Reagan and hippies:

"If the S.F. music scene (I quickly learned that 'Frisco' was a no-no) was scarcely known outside the Bay Area, and neither was the larger cultural phenomenon it drew strength from. The word 'hippie'—derived from 'hipster,' the nineteen-forties bebop sobriquet revived sixty years later in Brooklyn, Portland, and food co-ops in between—had been coined only a few months earlier, by Herb Caen, the Chronicle’s inimitable gossip columnist. (At the time, as often as not, people spelled it 'hippy.') Ralph J. Gleason, the Chron’s jazz critic, was the scene’s Dr. Johnson. (Pushing fifty, he was too old to be its Boswell.) Gleason’s protégé was the pop-music critic for the U.C. Berkeley’s student paper, the Daily Californian, Jann Wenner. But the national press had not taken much notice, if any. So getting something into Newsweek was a coup."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2143 words)

When Liberian Child Soldiers Grow Up

A generation of children, many of them young girls, fought in Liberia's civil wars. They're now grown up and trapped between their past and creating a future for themselves:

"After handing over her AK-47 and her RPG launcher during a disarmament drive, Mary returned to what she had known before the war: life on the streets, drugs, and prostitution.

"When Schaack, a soft-spoken Liberian social worker with the evangelical humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse, approached her in late 2003, just months after the ceasefire, Mary told her: 'Move from here that shit. The whole day you passing around and lying to people.' But after a while, Schaack managed to persuade Mary and eight other girls to live for nine months at a Christian mission where they received counseling as well as courses in pastry making and tie dying."
PUBLISHED: July 31, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4181 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our story picks this week include Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, Seattle Times, The New Yorker, and a guest pick by Kristen Majewski.
PUBLISHED: June 28, 2013

You Listen to This Man Every Day

Rick Rubin has produced some of the biggest hits of the past 30 years, from LL Cool J to Black Sabbath. He explains the secrets of the creative process:

"We worked on [the Beastie Boys'] debut album, Licensed to Ill, for a long time, two years in all, which is part of the reason the record is as good as it is. Each song really has a life of its own, because it might be a month between writing two songs. It wasn’t like 'OK, we have six weeks to make an album.' It was natural—the natural flow of making a really good piece of work. I can remember at one point getting a call from Mike D really upset, like, 'What’s going on? Why isn’t our record done yet?' I just said, 'I don’t really have control over that. It comes when it comes.'

"NEWSWEEK: Usually young people are in a rush. Why did you feel like you could take so much time?

"From the beginning, all I’ve ever cared about is things being great. I never cared about when they were done. Because I also feel like I want the music to last forever. And once you release it, you can’t go back and fix it, so you really have to get it right. And that takes time."
PUBLISHED: June 26, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5406 words)