Publisher's Letter

updated 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Journalism, like politics, can make for strange bedfellows. This week's issue, for instance, carries two stories by Senior Writer James S. Kunen. One is about a shooting gallery in Marietta, Ga. (page 51), where customers can rent almost any kind of machine gun that strikes their fancy. The other is about New York's beleaguered mayor, Ed Koch. Yet, says Kunen, these two widely disparate reports had points of contact.

"I spent a whole day with Koch," says Kunen, 37. "At one point he appeared at a press conference announcing the breakup of a giant cocaine ring. There on a table were weapons captured from the gang. Because of the shooting gallery story, I was able to look at them with a knowing eye and, indeed, help other reporters by identifying them. That's what's great about journalism: Every story helps every other story."

Kunen interviewed the mayor the day that Donald Manes, a former Koch friend and city power broker under investigation in a bribery scandal, committed suicide. "Koch took a hard line about Manes," says Kunen. "Of course he was unaware that within hours Manes would be dead. I see Koch as a figure who may be brought down by his own defects. Since he isn't in it for the money, he never realized that maybe everybody else was."

Kunen is the Boston-born son of a lawyer and a librarian. He graduated from Columbia University in 1970 with a degree in government, to which he added a law degree from New York University in 1978. His experiences at Columbia during the antiwar demonstrations in 1968 led him to write The Strawberry Statement, a milestone of counterculture literature. He also published Standard Operating Procedure: Notes of a Draft-Age American, which he says "sank like a rock." Kunen's most recent book, "How Can You Defend Those People?"—The Making of a Criminal Lawyer (McGraw-Hill, 1985), is based on his experiences as a public defender in Washington, D.C. from 1978 to 1981. Kunen, now divorced and living in Manhattan, joined us last year after working as an editor at News day and a free-lancer.

"I enjoyed being a lawyer," he says, "and I think that I was a pretty good lawyer, but I came to feel that writing was my calling. As a defense attorney, you speak to 12 jurors in a box. As a writer I can speak to the whole country."

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