Roger Hodge has been the editor of Harper's Magazine since 2006.
First published in March 1984, Harper's Magazine's monthly Index is, in the words of editor Roger Hodge, "a statistical poem." Each month, the Index presents a single page of meticulously researched statistics and figures — sometimes linked thematically to one another, sometimes standing on their own.
"The index is a list of 40 statistics that are very artfully [and] very carefully arranged," Hodge tells All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block.
Six people work on researching and writing the feature each month, typically gathering three times the number of factoids that the magazine runs. The published items are variously amusing, eye-opening and outrageous. Take, for instance, the leading entry on the inaugural Index:
Total hours of television watched in American households in 1983: 213,000,000,000.
The Index was the brainchild of former editor Lewis Lapham, who observed that many newspaper articles are built around a number. Lapham's idea, says Hodge, was to strip away the extra verbiage in order to "convey a newspaper's worth of information on a single page."
"One of the things that we try to do is keep it surprising so that the reader really doesn't know what's coming next," says Hodge, who adds that his favorite Index item of all time is the average number of peas in a pod (answer: 8).
In its 25 years of existence, Harper's has published 12,058 Index items — all of which can be accessed and searched on the magazine's Web site. A quick look at public radio Index items throughout the years reveals a hodgepodge of trivia, including:
(From August 1988) Pairs of red socks owned by Morton Downey Jr.: 124 By Garrison Keillor: 17
(From April 1995) Number of Veterans Administration employees whose salaries exceed $100,000 per year: 7,367 Number of National Public Radio employees whose salaries exceed $100,000: 6
(From June 1999) Hours before NATO began bombing Kosovo in March that NPR aired its last e-mail from a 16-year-old Albanian girl there: 6
(From June 2003) Number of motor vehicles owned by Tom Magliozzi, co-host of NPR's Car Talk: 0
(From June 2006) Percentage of U.S. public-radio stations' funding in 1980 and 2004, respectively, that came from businesses: 8, 18 Percentage that came from the federal government: 33, 11