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Why I Joined Puck

john Heilemann
From the jump, Puck made consistently, abundantly clear what turf it intended to dominate. When I first read that, I thought, Now that’s my brand of vodka. Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival
John Heilemann
May 5, 2024

Twenty-nine years ago this month, with the country reeling from the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1996 presidential election looming on the horizon, I quietly began engineering a career move that was, to me, fantastically enticing, but on its face, utterly preposterous. After five fabulous years working for The Economist, first in London and then in Washington, I would cover the forthcoming campaign for two magazines simultaneously: Wired and The New Yorker.

You’d be hard-pressed to identify a stranger pairing of publications. Only two years old but already the most heralded West Coast magazine since Rolling Stone in its heyday, Wired and its messianic founder, Louis Rossetto, were openly contemptuous (if privately covetous) of everything Tina Brown and The New Yorker represented. But there was a certain hallucinatory logic to the deal, which somehow convinced both sides to accept joint custody of me in 1996. For Wired, I would write an 8,000- to 10,000-word feature every month; for The New Yorker, a campaign-trail Talk of the Town piece every other week. For me, the result was intoxicating—so much so that, when Louis called and asked if I’d also be willing to knock out two or three scene-setting paragraphs every day for Wired’s fledgling online arm, Hotwired, I answered without blinking (or, clearly, thinking), “Sure.”