Across the top of my blue book was typical of my teacher: “An excellent exam. I’ll have to make my exams harder for you in the future.”
Journalism and me. It was my first year of college, and I took some excellent media classes taught by David Rubin, the editor at (MORE), a journalism watchdog publication. One of his quirks was to give us open-book exams. “Journalism is not about memorizing facts,” he explained. “It’s about understanding them and knowing where to find them.”
That’s been an operating principle for me since I began my professional writing career in 1978. I have written for newspapers (Newsday, The New York Observer, The San Francisco Chronicle) and magazines (Diversion, Movieline, Men’s Fitness, World Screen News, Muscle Media), and have also written 15 books (including Overheard on a Bus and Co-ops, Condos & Me).
Through it all, there has been one fixed point in an ever-changing age: Habitat. I have worked at this magazine for what seems like a lifetime – and almost is. I started here in March of 1982 with the second issue, when the magazine was 16 pages long and featured gardening and wine columns, stories about woodworking, and even a five-part piece of fiction called “The Story of Lofthome.”
I’ve seen the magazine grow, both literally and figuratively, as we focused on topics that boards of directors could rarely find in other magazines, such as finding and working with a managing agent, or how to install a green roof or run a successful annual meeting. Although managers identified us as a trade publication, we saw ourselves as something more – as a service to boards of co-ops and condos across metropolitan New York City. We took that role very seriously. For instance, when the management corruption scandals broke in the 1990s, even though many of our major advertisers were management companies, we were there with multiple reports and also a list of all the indicted managers and companies. One management executive pulled his advertising, angrily saying that we were defaming, not defending, the industry. Three years later, his company was gone, and he was in jail.
I owe my long career here to Carol Ott, who hired me in 1982, even though I knew nothing about co-ops and condos. (I know a little more now.) Carol and I have had a handshake deal from the start, and she has always honored it. She has been a good employer and a faithful friend.
But now it’s time to make a change.
As of March 15, I will be stepping down from my position as editorial director at Habitat and retiring from full-time work. ’ve been battling Parkinson’s disease for the last 16 years now, and, on doctor’s advice, I need to cut back on some of my activities. I won’t completely disappear, though. I’ll still be working as an editorial consultant, searching for story ideas, writing this column, and defending the use of the serial comma against all challengers.
Thanks to everyone – board members, managers, lawyers, and all my colleagues over the years. It’s been a blast.