Hendrik (Rick) Hertzberg is one of the giants of the mainstream media. A two-time editor of the New Republic and an off and on contributor for nearly 40 years to the New Yorker, his Comment essays at the front of the magazine are required reading for every literate liberal in America. Along with Frank Rich and the late Molly Ivins, Hertzberg has also provided one of the fiercest and most intelligent critiques of the Bush administration available in print. Back in the 1970s, he did stints as a speechwriter--for New York governor Hugh Carey in Albany and for Jimmy Carter in the White House. After graduating from Harvard in 1965, where he was managing editor of the Crimson, Hertzberg got a job in the San Francisco bureau of Newsweek, just as the '60s began to explode. In 1966, he wrote a magnificent file about Bill Graham's Fillmore West, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead. Almost none of it made it into the magazine, but Hertzberg held on to it, and nearly four decades later the essay became the opening piece in "Politics," the superb collection of his journalism published in 2004 by Penguin.
This past summer, the quintessential magazine writer turned his attention to the Web, and started one of the four blogs now available at NewYorker.com. Does this make him a canary in the mine shaft of the mainstream? Veteran journalist Charles Kaiser interviewed him about that, how he avoided service in Vietnam, and his definition of the "inside the Beltway" problem.