New Book Reveals the Inside Scoop of Working at The New Yorker

By Vicki Salemi Comment

Want to know what it was like working at The New Yorker, back in the day?

Janet Groth, a former receptionist, worked at the magazine for 21 years. In her new book The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker, Groth (now a college professor) dishes about her time there from 1957 until 1978.

Groth told The New York Times her receptionist’s chair near the elevator provided her with “a bird’s-eye view of everything and a hot plate, which I brought.”She also speculated about one of the reasons she didn’t advance beyond that role despite her many years of service:

“Women had had no assertiveness training — Oprah had yet to appear. I didn’t have a good grip on where I was going or who I was.”

Nevertheless, Lillian Ross and Pauline Kael did in fact famously succeed as writers at the publication while Groth worked there. Her explanation? “I was less able to envision myself storming the citadel than people who were more confident.”

Ladder climbing aside, Groth was able to field inquiries from J.D. Salinger, give Woody Allen directions and get through a job interview with E.B. White. She was also able, on a salary of $80 a week, to enjoy regular trips to Europe. “The New Yorker believed in long summer vacations for their receptionists,” she said.