5 Questions with Chris Bonanos


Chris Bonanos is a Senior Editor at New York magazine. He handles a portion of the cultural coverage. He has been at New York since 1993.

FishbowlNY: Tell us a little bit about your average day.

Chris Bonanos: My days are driven by our weekly deadlines. For the first day or so of any given week, I’m nailing down the lineup for the material I work on, and am editing our listings pages, which go to press earliest. On Wednesday, we typically close the two main sections on which I work — the Culture Pages, where I edit several columnists, and the Strategist, where I produce our real-estate coverage — and that takes all day (and evening). Thursday is when the feature well and the Intelligencer news section close, and if anything I’m working on falls there, that’s the next big push. And Friday is when I can catch my breath, do some assigning, and plan the next week.

FBNY: What’s the best thing about your job?

CB: There are two exceptional things about working here. One, the best journalists on this magazine rank with the best anywhere, and collaboration with great talent is invigorating. And two, I find that almost anything that begins to interest me in my civilian life can eventually work its way into print here. If I worked at a single-topic magazine — whether that topic was art or weddings or food or politics — it would occupy only a sliver of my life. As it stands, if I suddenly find my interest piqued by a new author, or the pretzel croissants at City Bakery, or something unique about the latest batch of subway cars, I can often end up turning that interest into a
piece of writing. That is a rare gift — that your job can draw so heavily on your everyday life.

FBNY: What do you like most about the city?

CB: Apart from the pretzel croissants at City Bakery? The deep reservoir of history in every brick. Go down into the subway, let’s say, and while you’re sitting there waiting, look at the beat-up terra cotta above the tilework. Right there, you have the makings of a doctoral thesis or ten: the City Beautiful movement, the political neglect of mass transit at mid-century, the push to rebuild infrastructure as our resurgent city has realized quite how deeply we depend upon it, and much more.

FBNY: Hardest part of your job?

When a story doesn’t work after a lot of effort. Sometimes it’s a subject who simply won’t say anything interesting, sometimes it’s an outside factor, sometimes it’s a reporter who just can’t find the thread. Regardless, it falls to an editor to make that phone call saying “it’s not going to run.” It is always a painful conversation.

FBNY: Is there any particular story that you did that you are particularly proud to have got out?

CB: I’m fond of a couple of pieces I’ve written: a profile earlier this year of Edward Tufte, the information-design guru, and a big story several years back about turmoil in New York’s Greek Orthodox church. As an editor, I’m rather pleased with our real-estate coverage, particularly Vu., the big package we do twice a year. When we are on our game, it takes a subject that’s nominally kind of boring and covers it in a way that is at once pleasurable and eye-roll-inspiring and extremely satisfying to read.

That said, there’s something I am happy to have worked on in nearly every issue. Just this week our art critic, Jerry Saltz, has a really outstanding essay in print. I’m Jerry’s editor, and though he certainly does not need much editorial intervention, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel excited when he hits a home run.