Radio Wolinsky

Lillian Ross (1918-2017), “Reporting Back: Notes on Journalism,” 2002

Lillian Ross (1918-2017), in conversation in June, 2002 with host Richard Wolinsky. Encore podcast originally posted September 30, 2017.

Lillian Ross, who died on September 20, 2017 at the age of 99, spent seven decades as a staff writer for the New Yorker Magazine, beginning in 1945. Writing for the Talk of the Town section of the magazine, her credo was “Your attention at all times should be on your subject, not on you. Do not call attention to yourself.” In 1950, her profile of Ernest Hemingway, according to the New York Times, elevated her into the top ranks of New Yorker stylists. Using novelistic techniques for writing non-fiction, she is often credited as the primary influence of what came to be called “new journalism” as exemplified in her series of articles about the making of the John Huston film, The Red Badge of Courage, which were collected in the book, Picture, often called the best book ever written about Hollywood. She spent several years as the mistress of long-time New Yorker editor Willliam Shawn, as chronicled in her book Here But Not Here, from 1998.

This interview with Lillian Ross took place on June 4, 2002 on the publication of her book, “Reporting Back: Notes on Journalism.” Of this particular discussion she later wrote, “ It’s the first time I ever listened to any kind of broadcast on my power book, and I was amazed. It’s the first interview I’ve ever experienced that sounded interesting to me and sounded true to me. That of course is because of you, your questions, your general interest, your understanding, and your response, and then, your editing. I do thank you. I’m very grateful. With great admiration, Lillian Ross.”

Lillian Ross’s final piece, a profile of J.D. Salinger after his death, was published in 2012.

John Huston, Lillian Ross and Audie Murphy on the set of “Red Badge of Courage.”
Lillian Ross and longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn.