Many people would consider a position on the editorial board of The New York Times as well as a weekly economics column in the paper as one of journalism's most coveted spots. But Peter Passell is looking to help influence policy even further.
After 21 years at Times, Passell decided to move to Los Angeles, where he will become editor in chief of the Milken Institute magazine, Jobs & Capital, effective Sept. 1.
"I've never had the chance to edit a magazine," said Passell. "This is an incredible opportunity to make a splash in the world. There are very few places where public-policy junkies like me can really sink their teeth into an issue. Even at a paper like The New York Times, as a writer, you have to assume that your reader is in a hurry or that you are competing with all the other information on the page."
Passell plans to take the existing magazine and ramp up its content, design and distribution, hoping to turn the publication into a highly influential journal targeted at some of the nation's most important policy decision makers as well as a general business audience.
"The primary goal is to make economic policy issues understandable to the educated public. There's a big gap between the way that economists speak and think and the way that the public thinks. Our key focus will be to bridge that gap," said Passell.
In order to do that, Passell will include articles from a mix of writers, both journalists and economists. "We'll really have to keep the writers focused on the goal of making economic policy understandable," he said.
Passell, who earned his bachelor's degree at Swarthmore College and has a Ph.D. in economics from Yale, believes the magazine can retain its tight focus because "we won't be working under the handicap of other current-issue magazines. We don't have to support ourselves through subscriptions or advertising, so we have a degree of independence."
The magazine is funded by the non-profit Milken Institute and is distributed mainly to government policy makers and business people.
Passell said the magazine will be bigger and have a more serious look. "We want something that has some heft, that looks important, but still has articles that people want to read," he said. The magazine is a quarterly publication, but in the future the number of issues may increase. The first issue under Passell's direction will be published this winter.
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