The Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section had become “Nolook.” The weekly review bored readers with tedious essays by policy wonks, Sunday after Sunday.
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 the Sunday section new life with fresh graphics, news-breaking essays, and points of view that surprise.
“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 Shadid’s essay about his ancestral village in Lebanon: “Once brash,” he wrote, “Marjayoun is now lonely; once confident, the village now contemplates its demise.”
One key to Glasser’s success has been tapping the Post’s internal talent, like Shadid, and allowing writers
—and photographers—to stretch out. Dana Milbank started writing a weekly Zeitgest column; military writer Tom Ricks is scheduled to begin In Box, a selection from his e-mail traffic. She brought Michael Grunwald in for a six-month tour as the first “Outlook fellow.”
Glasser is establishing a posse of favored scribes, including Slate’s Will Saletan and Dahlia Lithwick.
Outlook often has been seen as a place to showcase editors with the potential to climb the management ladder. Bob Kaiser ran it before he became managing editor. David Ignatius edited Outlook on his way to making a run at Ben Bradlee’s top job, which became a road to editing the International Herald Tribune and now writing a column.
Glasser’s star has been rising since she arrived at the Post in 1998. Her parents, Stephen and Lynn Glasser, are publishers in Montclair, New Jersey, who started Legal Times. They sent Glasser to Andover and Harvard. She then came to Washington as a reporter for Roll Call and became the paper’s 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 Bill Clinton impeachment story. They fell in love, married, and went off to cover Moscow in 2000. Along the way Glasser has covered war in Afghanistan and the start of the fighting in Iraq.
“I rented a car in Kuwait and drove into southern Iraq,” says Glasser. Most reporters in those days were embedded with troops. “My job was to talk to Iraqis.”
Outlook is starting to talk to readers.