On the first of this month, genial New Yorker writer Dan Baum quietly finished his New Orleans Journal for the magazine's website, and announced that he and his wife, writer Margaret Knox—with whom he collaborates on nearly all of his written work—would be leaving the city and returning home to Denver. What Baum didn't announce was that these may be the last words he'll be writing for the New Yorker, as David Remnick has decided not to renew his contract.
All New Yorker writers are on one-year contracts. Baum, who's been a contributor since 2003, found out in January that his contract—which would be up in September—was not going to be renewed for a fourth year. Since Hurricane Katrina, he's been writing almost exclusively about New Orleans (he also wrote about the tsunami in Asia—here's a man who likes his natural disasters!), but has also covered immigration and the military extensively.
The contract called for him to write 30,000 words per year. When he was told that the magazine would not be renewing his contract, they also suggested that he finish out his current contract online, and not in the pages of the magazine—which is why he's been writing the New Orleans Journal online, and his byline hasn't appeared in the magazine since October 2006. (He's also working on a book about New Orleans, to be published in 2009, around the same time that city gets back on its feet maybe.)
We called Baum at his home in Denver and asked why the magazine had decided not to renew. "Remnick was not happy with my work," he said. "But I would like to go back there."
"It's the best gig in journalism," he said. "I miss it. I really liked it."