Warren Hinckle in 1987, with his dog Bentley, in San Francisco.
Photo by: Eric Luse/San Francisco Chronicle via AP
The death of Warren Hinckle III last week at the age of 77 marks the passing of a style of journalism that was best represented during his time as publisher and executive editor of Ramparts magazine in the 1960s. An excellent obituary has been produced by the Washington Post, (which is ironic given that the Post and other mainstream publications dismissed the radicalized world view that Hinckle and Ramparts represented.)
I was a devoted single copy buyer of the magazine until it closed in the early '70s and, while I was somewhat cossetted in the safety of Canadian university campus, I read with avidity the writings by and about southeast Asia, black power, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton and the Chicago 8. The magazine never made a dime but found creative ways to keep on going and at its peak had a circulation of about 250,000, no mean feat.
|Oct 26, '68 issue|
He and the magazine were hated by other magazines, notably TIME which never missed an opportunity to predict Ramparts' imminent demise. Hinckle said that the very best place to edit a magazine was on a small round table in a very dark bar and followed his own precepts, lubricating it with screwdrivers. Later, he and Sidney Zion for less than a year ran another exceptional magazine called Scanlan's and still later he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of San Francisco. In many ways, the muckraking legacy of Ramparts is carried on by Mother Jones magazine.
If you want to know more about Hinckle, here are two sources:
- If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade: An Essential Memoir of a Lunatic Decade, an uneven, but entertaining history particularly of the early years when he and his colleagues took a Catholic literary quarterly and turned it into a much-talked-about influencer of the New Left. I found my copy in a used book store.
- A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America, by Peter Richardson (New Press), who in 2009 managed to pull together a somewhat more objective history of the magazine and its impact.