Rising Star Glasser Spices Up Outlook

The Post's Outlook was a prelude to a Sunday nap. Now it arrives with a jolt.

By: Harry Jaffe

Susan Glasser's provocative Outlook section might help her rise in the paper's ranks. Photograph by Matthew Worden

Every Sunday the New York Times Week In Review section outshined the Washington Post’s Outlook. The Times showcased its reporters writing smart essays about the week’s news; the Post rounded up the usual policy wonks and published their unreadable prose.

Outlook was a prelude to a Sunday nap. Now it arrives with a jolt.

Since Susan Glasser took over as editor from Steven Luxenberg in February, Outlook has become a “must look.” The 37-year-old editor has given life to the Sunday section with compelling photography, fresh graphics, news-breaking essays and points of view that surprise and sometimes shock.

“I’ve had a blast doing it,” Glasser says. “I’ve published stuff I don’t agree with. I want it to be provocative and interesting.”

Take “Marriage Is For White People,” an essay by Joy Jones, a black writer and teacher who was surprised to hear a sixth grade student utter the line that would become a headline in Outlook. Or Post foreign correspondent Anthony Hadid’s wrenching essay about his ancestral village in Lebanon: “Once brash,” he wrote, “Marjayoun is now lonely; once confident, the village now contemplates its demise. Published in April, it presaged the war that would break out a month later.

One key to Glasser’s success is that she took a page from the New York Times and tapped the Post’s internal talent, like Shadid, and allowed writers -- and photographers -- to stretch out on her pages. Dana Milbank started writing a Weekly Zeitgest column; military writer Tom Ricks is scheduled to begin  “in box,” a regular selection from his voluminous e-mail traffic. She brought Michael Grunwald in for a six-month tour as the the first “Outlook fellow.”

Outlook has often been seen as a place to park editors who have potential to ascend the management ladder. Bob Kaiser ran it before he became managing editor. David Ignatius edited Outlook on his way to making a run at running the Post, which became a road to editing the International Herald Tribune and now writing a regular column.

Glasser’s star has been rising quickly since she arrived at the Post in 1998. She was to the writing manner born. Her parents -- Stephen and Lynn Glasser -- are publishers who started Legal Times. They sent Glasser to Andover and Harvard. She then came right to Washington as a reporter for Roll Call and became editor in 1992. The Post hired her as deputy national editor for investigations.

She wound up working closely with White House reporter Peter Baker as he was covering the Clinton impeachment story. They fell in love and married and went off to cover Moscow in 2000. Along the way Glasser has covered wars in Afghanistan (the battle of Tora Bora) and the start of the fighting in Iraq.

“I rented a car and drove into southern Iraq,” says Glasser, who does not fit the stereotypical swashbuckling war correspondent. Most reporters in those days were embedded with troops. “My job was to talk to Iraqis.”

Outlook is starting to talk to readers.

And the New York Times’ Week In Review is starting to seem like the tired read on Sunday.