The Yale Review wins National Magazine Award for general excellence

The renowned cultural and literary journal was recognized by the American Society of Magazine Editors in the category of Literature, Science and Politics.
Collage of four magazine covers.

The Yale Review (TYR), a renowned cultural and literary journal that for more than two centuries has published works by some of the great writers, scholars, and poets of their time, has won a 2024 National Magazine Award for general excellence in the category of Literature, Science and Politics.

The awards, which are regarded as among the most prestigious in journalism and magazine publishing, are sponsored by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The latest recipients — including The Atlantic, New York, and Business Insider — were announced during an awards ceremony in New York on April 2.

It is the first time The Yale Review has won a National Magazine Award.

Meghan O’Rourke, who became editor of The Yale Review in 2019, described the award as a “thrilling” validation of her team’s ongoing work to reimagine the magazine as a journal of ideas for the digital age.

I came to Yale with the idea of renovating and reinvigorating what had long been a prestigious journal but needed a 21st century update,” she said. “At the time I made a five-year plan, and I will tell you that the last item in that plan was that I hoped to receive a nomination for General Excellence at the National Magazine Awards.

So when we got the nomination I was thrilled,” she said. “But last night really was the icing on the cake. Because to win the award is beyond an honor!”

Each year ASME presents National Magazine Awards in 17 categories. The Literature, Science and Politics category recognizes publications with print circulations under 250,000 or average monthly unique visitors of less than 1 million, as well as magazines and websites covering media and the arts. Other finalists were The American Scholar, Mother Jones, Oxford American, and Rest of World.

In announcing the award recipients, Sidney Holt, the executive director of ASME, recognized the outstanding contributions of the publications. “Not only is each an outstanding example of magazine storytelling — and in the case of the General Excellence winners, there are dozens of examples — but each also demonstrates the continuing vitality of print and digital media,” he said.

The Yale Review, which was founded in 1819 as The Christian Spectator (and later became The New Englander, before taking its current name in 1911),  has long distinguished itself as a journal of literature and ideas. And over more than two centuries, the magazine has published some of the most notable writers and poets of each era, from Virginia Woolf and Thomas Mann to Louise Glück and Cathy Park Hong.

When O’Rourke took over as editor in 2019, she expressed a desire to make the newest incarnation of the magazine “feel necessary and relevant to all readers, including those who may not have known about it previously.”

Key to that has been the creation of a new website, introduced in 2021, which has offered new layers to the reader experience while capturing the literary quality of the print edition. Also critical, O’Rourke said, the TYR team has helped create an editorial identity that reflects that a magazine “is more than a collection of pieces.”

O’Rourke also lauded the creativity and dedication of the magazine’s staff and contributors, including numerous Yale students who are deeply involved in all phases of editorial process, and the support of university leaders.

They really understood what I'm trying to accomplish and supported that,” she said. “Given that our mission of public-facing writing dovetails with Yale's mission of teaching and research, working at The Review can also be a wonderful way for students to get hands-on experience.”

The award recognizes “the invention of a new kind of magazine that is a great deal more than a magazine as we usually think of it,” said Langdon Hammer, the Niel Gray, Jr. Professor of English in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. There is, he said, the “venerable print quarterly, re-energized by new voices,” and the online magazine that has the “literary distinction and intellectual excitement of the quarterly but coming out at a faster pace — and without a paywall.” And there is the community of editors and readers, and of writers inside and outside of the university, that has helped make it “an ongoing public collaboration.”

Meanwhile, TYR has become part of the Yale graduate and undergraduate curriculum, opening up some new paths in humanities and arts education,” Hammer said.

Added O'Rourke: “What distinguishes us is that we publish work that is deeply connected to some of the most important issues of our time, but because we are a quarterly imprint with regular pieces on web, we are freed from the need to publish the hot take.

We prize what we call ‘slow thinking’ in the office,” she said. “Our identity involves thinking deeply about what matters to all of us today — climate, politics, literature, poetry — and to publish pieces that we think add value to the larger discourse and don’t merely repeat what is already out there, or race to have the fastest and most controversial (or commonly accepted) take.”


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