Sending smoke signals to our former editor in chief

An open invitation to David Remnick

Justin Cook, Editor in Chief

It’s hard to imagine a young David Remnick, current editor of The New Yorker, walking through the same halls of Pascack Valley that we walk through everyday. It’s hard to imagine a young Remnick attending the PV football games or going to the school pep rallies; however, it’s especially difficult to imagine a young Remnick serving as editor in chief of this very paper, The Smoke Signal, close to four decades ago.

For those unfamiliar, Remnick is a PV graduate who has led a multi-decade spanning career that is as influential as it is fascinating.

In 1981, he graduated from Princeton University and quickly found a job reporting for The Washington Post. Spending many years reporting on topics ranging from sports to style, Remnick eventually became the paper’s Moscow correspondent.

Remnick’s time in Moscow proved to be an extremely important part of his life, as it gave him the inspiration for his first book “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.” The 1993 book was well received by critics and casual book readers alike, and even went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

I wish I could give you some great big insight into Remnick’s time here at PV, but unfortunately current and former Smoke Signal editor in chiefs don’t hold a key to a secret club where we all get together time and time again to discuss our experiences throughout high school.”

He made the switch over to The New Yorker in 1992, after working for The Washington Post for 10 years. In 1998, Remnick became the editor of The New Yorker, a position that he still holds today.

While I’m not going to pretend I read the The New Yorker, unless chuckling quietly to myself when looking at the cartoons counts as reading, I’m also not going to pretend to be unimpressed by Remnick’s obviously impressive career. To think that such a revered and accomplished man came from such humble beginnings is very encouraging.

I wish I could give you some great big insight into Remnick’s time here at PV, but unfortunately current and former Smoke Signal Editor in Chiefs don’t hold a key to a secret club where we all get together time and time again to discuss our experiences throughout high school. Sorry… it just doesn’t work like that (although now that we’re talking about it I really wish it did.)

But what I am able to talk about is an interview Remnick gave with NPR last month, in which he briefly spoke about his time with The Smoke Signal. Remnick said, “Very few people were interested in the idea of a high school newspaper.”

“I regret to say that it was called The Smoke Signal, the newspaper, because we were the Pascack Valley Indians. And it’s completely wrong and I apologize for it,” Remnick added perhaps half-jokingly.

He goes on to say how he is unsure if the paper still holds that same name, so Mr. Remnick, if by some strange chance you are reading this and you didn’t quite figure it out yet, yes, we are still The Smoke Signal.

While some very major changes have occurred to The Smoke Signal since Remnick’s time with the paper, perhaps the most evident being that it has gone from a printed to an online format, our name has always remained the same.

Arguments here at PV have been brought up in the past regarding not only the paper’s name, but also the school’s mascot. Some argue that both are offensive to Native American people, while others make a case to keep the names. In 2004, a vote was held on whether or not the school mascot, an Indian, should be changed. About 67 percent of the student and faculty population decided to keep the current mascot, and the issue was never put to a vote again.

We here at The Smoke Signal hear both sides of the argument, and are currently in the process of examining the possibility of a name change.

Above all else, what we want is to open a dialogue between our school and Remnick. To have him come visit us, and perhaps even speak to us about his own life and experiences growing up in this area, would be truly special and unforgettable.

So what do you think Mr. Remnick, will you join us?

(Justin Cook is Editor in Chief of The Smoke Signal and can be reached at [email protected]… just in case you’re editor of, say, a major New York publication and want to drop him a line.)