This is a special time of year for our letters department. Sort of the way the Flood was a special time for Noah.
We're talking, of course, about the deluge of mail that follows the SI swimsuit issue. Since it's our policy to acknowledge every piece of reader mail, letters department head Linda Verigan and her staff have had their hands full in the past few weeks. So far they have received—and answered—587 letters on that issue, from readers who range from the delighted to the furious. "We value our readers' thoughts and opinions," says Verigan. "They're very knowledgeable, and we're happy they care enough about SI to write to us. The least we can do is write back."
Verigan, who in her 13 years with SI has been a secretary, a reporter and a senior editor, lives in Wyckoff, N.J. She met her husband, sports-writer Bill Verigan of the New York Daily News, at Super Bowl X in Miami in 1976. Bill covers the Giants for the News. Their son, Billy, 2½, has referred to Giants noseguard Jim Burt as "my buddy Jim Burt" since they met at a practice and shared some Gatorade. Christina, 5½, cherishes a cracked golf ball Lawrence Taylor gave her during training camp. "She carries it in her backpack and says, 'Lawrence Taylor gave me this. Lawrence Taylor gave me this,' " says Linda.
Apart from reader mail, Verigan and the letters department handle unsolicited manuscripts and story ideas as well as FACES IN THE CROWD nominations and requests to reprint SI stories. The hardest task, say senior letters correspondent David Fischer and correspondent Laura Hilgers, is turning down the poems we receive—everything from the "religious" ("Now I lay me down to dream / In hopes of waking as Akeem....") to the more traditional ("Standing tall on ailing knee, / Elway throws for 43. / Scrambling, one yard, two yards, more, / Elway throws for 34....").
Special requests—ranging from where to obtain back issues of SI to settling bets on points of trivia—fall to reader service correspondent Tom Fraher. "They think we know everything," says Fraher, who does generally know where to find out.
Marlene Korim handles requests from people who want to reprint articles. "I like the job because we're dealing with the public," says Korim, who also has a way with letters from outraged readers. "I was a psychology major [at New York University], and I like to look at the positive. When readers are angry, it's usually because they like the magazine. They care, and that's nice."
Verigan: Her department reads and answers all.