A magazine's masthead, the collection of names and titles to be seen at right, is its single most important asset, and certainly this is true at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. It is the heart of our operation, the nearest thing we have to an inventory of resources. The masthead is a compendium of talents, a table of organization and a duty roster rolled into one. It is us.
One thing it is not, however, is immutable. Changes take place as people are advanced, their responsibilities shift or they leave the magazine. Occasionally an adjustment is necessary to clarify a function. Such a change was made in last week's masthead with the creation of a new category called Senior Writers.
Most of the names that now fall under this section were previously listed as Senior Editors. In a sense the description was misleading, since only occasionally did any of the new Senior Writers do any editing; they were actively and decidedly writers. The new designation, while reflecting the equal importance of both functions in SI's success, more accurately describes their responsibilities.
Three staff members who achieved their "seniority" last week were Barbara La Fontaine, who became a Senior Editor, and Robert F. Jones and William Johnson, who are now Senior Writers. They moved up from the rank of Associate Editor, where all had distinguished themselves.
La Fontaine, the second woman to become a Senior Editor (joining Patricia Ryan), began her SI career as a secretary in the text department, where she frequently helped read manuscripts. Her obvious talent soon moved her onto the masthead as a reporter, and her subsequent rapid ascent reflects her growth as a writer and, for the last 12 months, as an editor. Though many writers find the conversion to the role of editing a difficult and wrenching one, La Fontaine accepted the change with alacrity.
"I do not write easily," she says, "and when I was asked to start editing I took to it as I imagine someone would who had been shoveling coal for 20 years and then was told she could now make her living adjusting a thermostat."
For someone who found composition such an onerous chore, La Fontaine managed to disguise it pretty well. Over the years she delivered thousands of words of first-rate prose on subjects ranging from motor sports (despite the fact she never learned to drive) to life as a member of the first girls' Outward Bound course, where she got her lumps, so to speak, during a month of primitive living in the wilderness of Minnesota.
In 1967 she and her artist-husband Clifford had their first child, Lucas, and La Fontaine asked to come in out of the cold. She was assigned to write the PEOPLE column, which she did for more than 3½ years. Last summer her liberation was completed when she started to edit. "I expect to be an editor for a long time before the joy of having someone else do the writing diminishes," says La Fontaine, reaching for the thermostat.