In theory the 180 paid staff members listed at the right hold the sole responsibility for the content and direction of this magazine every week. In fact these staff members are all rigidly supervised by a vast and amorphous army of conscientious supereditors who work for nothing and who make their approval, their disapproval, their copy corrections, their suggestions for future stories and (occasionally) for staff changes known in a never-ending series of letters to our 19TH HOLE. This is the back-of-the-book department (page 78) in which, we frankly admit, our "readers take over."
All magazines elicit occasional letters to the editor, but we doubt that the pen pals of any other exercise the proprietary air that ours do. Sport is a highly partisan pastime, and our readers are all anxious to keep us in the right party. Our basketball fans are quick to demand equal time if they feel the racetrack railbirds have got a paragraph too much attention. The slightest intimation on the part of one of our baseball writers that the Yankees are not all that bad will bring a torrent of corrective information from the Yankee haters, and this in turn will evoke a brisk rebuttal from the New York fans. Sometimes our letter writers get to arguing so furiously among themselves—as they did when a correspondent from Phoenixville, Pa. suggested that pro football and boxing "represent everything that is unclean, unfair and dishonest in the sporting world" (Dec. 10, 1962)—that all we on the staff can do is sit back and listen—and learn.
Some of our most vociferous correspondents might be classed as crackpots by the narrow-minded—one rebuked us fiercely for wasting editorial time and space on such "nonathletic sports" as golf, fishing, sailing, bowling, chess, bridge and baseball—but there are others who speak so softly to us in their letters that we have to look twice to appreciate the authority implicit in their modest signatures. In this unassuming way, letter writers such as all-time Golfing Champion Robert Tyre Jones, top Yacht Designer Olin Stephens, Peace Corps Chief Sargent Shriver, Baseball Oracle J. G. Taylor Spink, College President Theodore M. Hesburgh of Notre Dame, Tiffany Chairman Walter Hoving—and many more—have enlightened their fellow readers with knowledge no one else could have brought to them. One of the most pleasant exchanges in this magazine took place when Athletic Director Asa Bushnell and famed Coach Fritz Crisler swapped memories in the 19TH HOLE of Football Fan F. Scott Fitzgerald's early and impulsive pioneering in the two-platoon system.
When Writer-Reporter Gay Flood, who's in charge of separating the epistolary chaff from the grain, opens the huge pile of letters awaiting her each week, she never knows whether a given envelope will contain a clenched fist, a bouquet of roses or a pearl of hitherto unrevealed information. Gay, who prepared for her difficult task by studying both English and philosophy at Smith College, first makes sure that the facts in every letter are correct and that the language is readable, then joins with Senior Editor Roger Hewlett in deciding which of the many letters received are worth printing. Their criterion in making the choice is never how well or how ill a correspondent may speak of us, but only how informatively and interestingly he may speak to our readers.