What could be better than coming to MIT to lead its century-old magazine, which happens to have the word “technology” in the title, into the twenty-first century? We were offering a career-defining opportunity to the right person. We found him in John Benditt.
Last April when we set out to hire a new editor-in-chief for MIT’s Technology Review, we were at a pivotal point in our 98-year history. For our selection we set the bar very high. The person we chose had to be a highly respected and experienced journalist, who has an MIT level of intelligence, fine editing skills, access to the best science and technology writers in the world, a deep understanding of all aspects of technology, and the capacity to manage and lead a staff of sophisticated writers, editors, and graphic designers. Not an easy person to find.
We were in contact with more than 80 candidates, representing some of the most respected media organizations in the country. Our standards were high and the interviewing process rigorous. As the process led us to several highly appealing candidates, we asked for a detailed vision of what MIT’s Technology Review would be under their leadership as editor-in-chief. We took the “blank slate approach” with the following conditions: the magazine must be consistent with MIT’s purpose, intellectually rigorous, and highly credible. Beyond that we were looking for a clear, focused, and exciting vision that would carry us successfully into our second century and the third millennium.
I am very pleased to welcome our new editor-in-chief, John Benditt. John met and exceeded our criteria in every way. He was our unanimous choice. His clarity of vision and editorial focus captured the attention of the editorial search committee like no other.
John is a very smart, focused, disciplined professional with a bold and dynamic editorial vision for MIT’s Technology Review. Over the next several issues, we will tell you more about the unique and exciting plans we have for the magazine. But now let me tell you about John.
The talk around his family’s dinner table in Seattle was science (his father was a renowned biomedical researcher) and books (his mother is an accomplished writer). After attending Swarthmore, his career in journalism began with stints at the Seattle Post Intelligencer and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. He did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington.
In 1981 he joined the staff of Scientific American. Nine years later, he moved to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) where he was responsible for bringing a whole new set of freelance writers to Science magazine. As features editor, he presided over many of Science’s most successful special issues. When we contacted John, he was editor of Science’s Next Wave, the AAAS’s first web-only publication, aimed at improved career options for young scientists. This was a project he had conceived, raised funds for, and founded, also very MIT-like.
With John as our clear choice, he agreed to start at MIT’s Technology Review on September 15, 1997. My confidence that we had made the right choice was confirmed when John showed up not on September 15, but on September 8-one week early for work. Now, that’s what I call a partner!