I wanted to add to Mr. Taylor’s assessment of the Reader’s Digest a few of my experiences with the magazine.
I worked in the Reader’s Digest’s Washington office for ten years (from 1980 to 1990) and came to appreciate the excellent reporting and great writing and editing by the RD staff, especially Ralph Bennett and Bill Schulz.
I have two stories to add. In 1982 I was trying to rent a house in Bethesda, Maryland and contacted the owner, who was from India. He asked me where I worked and I told him — the Reader’s Digest. He told me that I could certainly rent his house and then said that the Reader’s Digest gave him his life in the U.S. He said that he learned about freedom and democracy from the Reader’s Digest. I said, how so? He said that as a child in a small town in India all of the local newspapers and publications were owned by the government. The only publication he ever saw that was not government propaganda was the Reader’s Digest. He said that he learned about the concept of democracy from the magazine, a concept he would not have known about otherwise. He said he learned about freedom and about the United States of America and vowed that someday he would live in the U.S. What a story. Until I heard his story it had never occurred to me that someone could go through their whole life and not know that democracies existed. How naive I was.
In that same time period, I knew a physician working at NIH who was from China. He told me a similar story about how the Reader’s Digest had affected his knowledge of the world. He and his friends used to smuggle textbooks and the Reader’s Digest into China (from Hong Kong) and then translate the English-language textbooks into Chinese. He said that he learned about the world beyond China from the Reader’s Digest and that it was his ONLY source of worldly information. He didn’t go so far as to say that he learned about freedom and democracy but he mentioned reading about other countries (e.g. Pompeii) and that he had no knowledge of historical events, other cultures, etc. until he read about these things in the Digest. We can only surmise that he learned, not only about places and things but also, about new ideas and possibilities that no other local publication could have given him.
I too, am sorry that the Digesthas become just another magazine. I would like to think that there are many young men and women around the world (especially in oppressed and closed countries) who would be able to see the Digestas a beacon of hope for the future. However, today the Digestmay only provide the newest profile of a Hollywood personality — as a beacon of hope. How sad is that?p>My only hope is that sites like yours’ and TCS will reach these young people and give readers the kind of “dogged” reporting of traditional and conservative values that the Digest
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?