The Gourmand and the Intellectual

Ryder, Lapham Receive Magazine Lifetime Achievement Awards

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NEW YORK ( -- The magazine business delivered its highest honors this afternoon to Lewis Lapham, who led Harper's as editor in
Lewis Lapham and Tom Ryder
Lewis Lapham and Tom Ryder Credit: Doug Goodman
two stretches totaling nearly three decades, and Thomas O. Ryder, the Reader's Digest Association chairman who previously led American Express Publishing and CBS Magazines.

Mr. Ryder, who was introduced by restauranteur Danny Meyer and a good friend and former colleague Gary Rich, good naturedly accepted the many jibes at his waistline and mischievous nature. When he got up to accept his award, he told the crowd he was going to admit to something "unseemly," actually wanting and longing for just such an honor.

"I have waited for so long to be on this podium one day as the recipient of this award," Mr. Ryder said as he accepted the Henry Johnson Fisher Award in front of hundreds of industry executives, staffers and observers. "Magazines made my life, and I'd like to think that my being here means I gave a little something back."

'Entertainment center'
He described hours of youth spent at an "entertainment center" in rural Lousiana -- meaning a corner of a porch stacked with magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Collier's Weekly, Time and Reader's Digest. His life, outlook and aspirations were transformed not by school, he said, but by those magazines.

With only one brief detour, Mr. Ryder has worked in magazines since a job offer from Life brought him to New York after college. "I never had a day -- not a day -- when I didn't realize just how lucky I was," he told the audience. "When you're done, I hope you feel the same way."
Mr. Lapham received an introduction from perhaps his epistolary opposite: Liz Smith, the gossip columnist syndicated in newspapers across the country. But she proved a perfect fit. "I love magazines more than anything," she said. "I think they're even more important than newspapers, which are generally pretty inept."

She said her column's readers were precisely the ones who needed Mr. Lapham's sophisticated writing the most. "I have quoted Harper's and Lewis over and over," she said. "My editors at The New York Post hate it."

For his part, Mr. Lapham acted his expected, restrained self as he was inducted into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame. He recounted the first advice he got upon being first named editor of Harper's in 1976, which he was told boiled down to one word: "Steal."

"Stand on the back of talent," he added. "Ride the surfboard of genius." Before telling the crowd that he had done just that, acknowledging the many young editors he has worked with through the years.

Although he is "retired," Mr. Lapham is now developing a history quarterly, Lapham's Quarterly. "I look forward to the continued exploration," he said.

The Henry Johnson Fisher Award has been presented annually since 1964 to people who have made significant and longstanding contributions to the magazine business and society in general. It is named for the founder and chairman of the Popular Science Publishing Company. The Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame was established in 1995 to recognize career achievement and excellence.

The honors were presented in New York today by the Magazine Publishers of American and the American Society of Magazine Editors.
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