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Staff Profile: Senior Editor Andrew Snee

July 12, 2019

Andrew Snee

Senior Editor Andrew Snee photographed when he first started at The Sun and now.

In late 1993 Andrew Snee, just two years out of college and working an entry-level job at an alt-weekly, applied to be an editor at The Sun. He didn’t get the job. Hired instead as a part-time reader for the magazine, he waited six months until the person who had gotten the job moved elsewhere, at which point he stepped in. (Apparently he had been the runner-up.) Andrew hasn’t stopped since. This year he celebrated not only his fiftieth birthday but also twenty-five years at The Sun.

Half of your life is a long time to spend at any job. And Andrew’s worked at the very same desk in the very same office — the only room in the building, as a matter of fact, that hasn’t been renovated, he points out. When asked what The Sun was like back when he started, Andrew says, “There were fewer people putting out the magazine, so things tended to pile up unless they were pretty urgent. And we flew a little more by the seat of our pants.”

Twenty-five years is also enough time to accumulate a few good stories. When asked about the worst mistake he’s made here, Andrew recalls editing Leslee Goodman’s January 2013 interview with nuclear-disarmament activist David Krieger, and inserting the word unilateral into this statement: “The path to security can only be through unilateral nuclear disarmament.” Andrew was attempting to clarify Krieger’s statement, but suggesting that one country abolish its nuclear arsenal while others maintain theirs is widely considered unrealistic and counterproductive. Although the change was shared with Krieger, who asked that unilateral be switched to total, the issue went to print with the error intact.

As anyone who has worked with Andrew will attest, what makes this story so indelible is how out of character it is; it’s like finding out your dentist doesn’t floss. Far more representative is Andrew approaching a piece of writing with a clear-eyed, rational sense of purpose and a firm grasp of even the most nuanced details. Editor and founder Sy Safransky has said that Andrew is a careful and sensitive editor who has improved the work of many writers, himself included. But he is quick to clarify that Andrew has “no compunction about wading into a dangerously crowded paragraph, grabbing a rowdy sentence by the collar, and throwing it off the roof.”

Editor and founder Sy Safransky has said that Andrew is a careful and sensitive editor who has improved the work of many writers, himself included.

That he manages all of that while maintaining good relationships with the writers he’s worked with — most are grateful for his careful attention to their writing — is evidence of how thoughtfully he approaches his work. As he wrote in the twenty-fifth anniversary issue of The Sun, “When I show [writers] the changes I suggest they make, I desire their approval as much as they might desire mine.”

When pushed for an anecdote about editing at The Sun, he tells this story from early in his tenure: “In 1995 or so, we were publishing a poem by [Men’s Movement scholar and National Book Award–winner] Robert Bly, and I felt it had a grammatical flaw in it. I think it was a comma that needed to go in or come out; I don’t really remember. I put it to Sy, who said to call Bly and ask him about it. So I did.” Andrew was still very new at The Sun, and Bly was about as famous and formidable a poet as you’re likely to find. “I explained what I thought the problem was, and Bly said, ‘I’m no good at this stuff. Let me ask my wife.’ He talked to her, then came back and said, ‘No, leave it. She says it’s OK.’ So I was defeated. But I still think I was right!”

457 - 40th anniversary cover
Apart from being known around the office as a dedicated husband and proud father, an avid guitarist and singer, and a voracious reader, Andrew’s also famous for his sizable collection of used-to-the-tiniest-nub pencils: a testament to what thoroughgoing work he does here. (Sun aficionados might remember Andrew’s pencils being featured on the cover of our fortieth-anniversary issue.) “It started simply because I had to pick them out of the trash when I took out my recycling. I’d just line them up on my desk, and people started to notice them.”

As you might expect of someone who’s spent much of his life in words, he has a memorable way of describing editing: “Editing someone’s work is like cutting their hair. You want them to look good, but it’s also important that they feel like themselves when it’s over — that you haven’t given them a haircut they can’t imagine themselves having. Even if it’s the most fashionable haircut, or the best-looking one they’ve ever had, they won’t be happy if it doesn’t look like them.”

The Sun would not be the magazine it is without Andrew’s uncommon intelligence, good humor, and years of hard work. We wish him a happy birthday, and are grateful for all he’s done for The Sun — including, as you probably guessed, editing this profile.

— Derek Askey, Assistant Editor

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