We're not surprised to hear that the last thing Linda Verigan wants to do when she gets home from work is cheek her mailbox. "I have absolutely no interest in the mail," she says. "I just ask my husband whether there's anything good in it. If not, I don't want to see it."
That's once she gets home. At work the mail is her job. SI receives some 500 letters a week, or about 25,000 a year, and Verigan, who is manager of our Letters Department, and her staff read them all.
Compliments, criticism and questions about the magazine and its contents are the Letters Department's bag. But Verigan also gets many requests via letter and telephone that, though technically beyond her purview, she tries to fulfill. For swimsuit issue fans, Verigan has form letters listing the addresses of the modeling agencies and phone numbers of the swimsuit designers.
The department also gets a slew of requests for research help. (A man called to ask whether someone could fax him all the information we had on drugs in the NFL. The gentleman explained that the research was for his son, who was too busy with his other Harvard classwork to do the digging himself.) In such cases Verigan responds with a letter explaining how to find the information through such sources as the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.
Verigan, who began her career at SI in 1973 as a secretary, was a senior editor before being enveloped by Letters in 1986. She and her staff have produced a brochure called Reader's Playbook, which answers such questions as where to send FACES IN THE CROWD suggestions and how to obtain back issues. Verigan and assistant Cathi Guberer respond personally to letters that warrant more than a standard reply, while the third member of the department, Marlene Korim, handles requests for story reprints. Every Thursday they also send out a report to the editorial staff on the contents of the previous week's mailbag, along with a sampling of letters—those that pan as well as those that praise. At the office, unlike at home, Verigan appreciates each piece of mail. "It's good that people feel inspired enough to write," she says. "That means the magazine is doing its job."