Beginning with founding editor Michael Williams (1924-38), Commonweal has enjoyed a great deal of continuity at the top of the masthead. Perhaps most remarkable in this regard was Edward S. Skillin, who joined the staff in 1933, bought the magazine in 1938, and remained as editor and then publisher until 1998. James O’Gara, who succeeded Skillin, served as managing editor and then editor from 1952 to 1984. A similar dedication to the magazine has been a large part of the lives of former editors Peter Steinfels and Margaret O’Brien Steinfels.
The Steinfelses’ association with Commonweal goes back forty-five years to when Peter, a graduate student at Columbia University, first arrived as an editorial assistant. Appointed executive editor in 1978 and editor in 1984, he was followed by Peggy, who served as editor from 1988 to 2002. On the eighty-fifth anniversary of Commonweal’s founding, we thought it appropriate to take advantage of the Steinfelses’ long institutional memory to discuss the history and future of the magazine. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation with the editors.
Paul Baumann: Let’s begin with how you see the future of the magazine.
Margaret O’Brien Steinfels: Splendid, it’s splendid.