Jessica Loudis recently became editor of World Policy Journal (WPJ), the flagship publication of the World Policy Institute. We sat down with her to discuss the new editorship, the direction of the journal, and upcoming issue themes.
What are your plans for the journal during your tenure as editor?
I want to cover policy in unexpected ways, and to draw in readers who don’t yet know they’re interested in the subject. Part of this involves taking a more multidisciplinary approach. For instance, our current issue has a piece about Dubai’s efforts to send a manned mission to Mars, and another about how Britain’s public space laws were shaped by music festivals in the 80s and 90s. Basically, WPJ will be the place to read the kinds of pieces you wouldn’t initially expect to find in a policy magazine.
How do you see the journal developing in the next few years?
I’m interested in discovering new, talented writers from all over the world, and in giving them the opportunity to tell stories that wouldn’t work for other magazines. We want to cultivate a sensibility that is incisive, offbeat, and multidisciplinary, and to do so by putting journalists and scholars and thinkers in conversation with one another. Ultimately, I want to create an intellectual community around the magazine, and to start meaningful conversations that have a broader impact.
How have you selected issue topics for the journal?
I’m interested in topics that are open-ended and allow for different avenues of access. For instance, the theme of our summer issue is “Megalomania,” and it will include a piece on a rising female fascist politician in Italy, another on a failed attempt to abolish time zones, and one on former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s overambitious architectural initiatives. I like topics that can speak to people in different ways, and which allow for a bit of fun.
Oh, on a related note, we’ve also brought on a cocktail historian, Eben Klemm, to create original cocktails based on our themes. For “Megalomania,” Eben has designed a cocktail that is a combination of Mussolini and Saddam Hussein’s favorite drinks, with an Idi Amin flourish thrown in for good measure.
Are there certain topics or fields you’re interested in focusing on?
I come from a literary background, and I’m very interested in having people from literature and the arts think about policy and politics in new ways. I’m also interested in anthropology and sociology, and I’ve really enjoyed working with specialists in those fields. In general, I want to surprise readers by drawing connections they hadn’t previously considered.
Can you tell us more about upcoming issues?
Our upcoming issues are “Megalomania,” “The Limits of Big Data,” and “Tourism.”
I already told you a little about megalomania, and for “The Limits of Big Data,” we have a piece I’m excited about on facial recognition software and programmable empathy. Another piece I’m looking forward to is on the Vatican’s big data initiative. As for the rest, you’ll have to wait and see…
For the tourism issue, we’re looking at a lot of different kinds of tourism: medical, adoption, dental, retail, to name a few.
One of the interesting things about the journal is its work recruiting journalists from around the world, can you shed more light on how you find new voices and stories?
I was fortunate to work at Al Jazeera and Bookforum before WPJ, which allowed me to cultivate an international network of writers and critics. Beyond that, I just read constantly, and try to do so as widely as possible. I follow the book publishing catalogs (especially Duke’s, which is consistently excellent), I read magazines, I pay attention to what’s happening in journalism, and I do a bit of Twitter stalking to see who the people I respect are reading and talking to. Finally, I’ll often ask colleagues or friends in my field for recommendations or advice on particular topics.
Tell us more about any other World Policy programs you’d like us to know about.
World Policy Journal and World Policy Institute are about to launch a very cool new program called “Renegotiating the Social Contract.” There will be a few parts to this, including conferences, publications, and multimedia projects. The idea is that the classic social contract as we’ve known it has broken down, and in a lot of ways, changed. While keeping in mind how the social contract used to be structured between citizens and the government, we’re looking how it’s currently structured, and what’s been lost or gained.