Political magazines are in the interpretation business, which is probably why printed interviews—no analysis, no commentary, just conversation—are such a rare commodity. We think they're both revealing and fun, though; hence the nearly 70 published interviews during REASON's 19-year life. A few facts: Interviews are always taped, not transcribed by a furiously scribbling amanuensis. (Yeah, it sounds obvious but it's commonly asked.) What you read is an edited version, with the uhs, yups, boring parts, and "That's a stupid question!"s excised. If interview subjects get a chance to inspect the transcript, it's only to correct inaccuracies of transcription. They don't get to rewrite their answers.
Our worst interviews are, invariably, with politicians. Whatever tack the interlocutor takes, whichever questions he asks, the hacks respond with sound and fury and fustian signifying nothing, absolutely nothing but the carefully cadenced tripe of the programmed man. Ever solicitous of our readers, we consign most of these interviews to a spot 'neath a 10-ton drum at a privatized landfill.
REASON's Ronald Reagan interview, by Senior Editor Manny Klausner in the July 1975 issue, was an exception. Our man Klausner went beyond Lesley Stahlish "Does the budget process need reform?" queries, and threw smart, impudent strikes Ron's way. It was respectful but rigorous, and seeing Reagan squirm through the prostitution question was alone worth the price of admission.
Readers seem to like our frequent interviews, though there are the predictable complaints whenever we feature someone whose opinions are unorthodox or disharmonious with our general editorial stance in favor of individual liberty. Angry letters get written and complaints get voiced, but that's just the way it goes. We see no point in filtering each subject through the ideological strainer, washing heresies down the sink, so that we can present a spanking clean, sterile product.
Interviewees have been conservative (William F. Buckley, Jr., Irving Kristol), liberal (Daniel Ellsberg, Christie Hefner), and unclassifiable (Timothy Leary, Russell Means). We've featured three Nobel laureates—F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and George Stigler—and a fourth, with 1986 honoree James Buchanan, won't be far behind.
As the only national magazine of politics and culture based in Los Angeles, one of REASON's comparative advantages is its propinquity to the entertainment community; we intend to exploit that edge. Hence this month's interview with Charlton Heston. Now you needn't worry about Reason becoming a political "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous"; no tours of Anson Williams's home are scheduled, and Marty Zupan and Bob Poole aren't receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Award at this year's Oscar ceremonies.
We are, however, expanding our popular culture coverage, particularly in those spheres where trends favorable to liberty can be detected. Stay tuned for further interviews with film and TV personalities who have provocative things to say.