Of all the tasks in producing an issue of Reader’s Digest, I think I enjoyed writing titles and blurbs the most. Or maybe it was choosing the articles in the first place. At any rate, this piece was unusually satisfying on both counts.

A truly great article delivers a surprising fact in every paragraph. Since this article was cut from a book, it offered plenty of material for meeting that criterion. Sometimes, however, even a reprint demands new material. In this case, a paragraph about McDonalds raised a question that the book failed to answer: was it true that the famous golden arches were designed to represent a womans breasts, or was that just an urban legend? I penciled a query in the margin for the Digest’s fabled research team (headed then and now by Deirdre Casper), and the result appears on page 97.

During an art meeting, one junior editor complained that the photos in this piece constituted free advertising for the products they illustrated. I had run across this attitude in my early days as a newspaper reporter. Most Digesters knew better. “The question is not what advertisers think, but what readers need,” I replied. “How are you going to discuss product packaging without showing product packages?” Case closed.

Top