In JComma Queen, The New Yorker’s grammar-focused video series, might not seem that promising a concept on paper. In it, longtime magazine copy editor Mary Norris dishes out grammar and style lessons, using examples from current and previous issues of the magazine to illustrate each case. Recent episodes focus on whether the word “none” is singular or plural, dangling participles, and the importance of the serial comma. (Or, as Nieman Lab’s institutional home might prefer it, the Harvard comma.)
But Nicholas Thompson, digital editor at The New Yorker, hasn’t been surprised by the series’ success since it was introduced last year. “I was pretty sure that Mary would be a star when we started it. People love grammar, and she’s both charismatic and brilliant,” he said. Comma Queen, like many of the other videos The New Yorker has produced, is designed to be a natural extension of the brand, born in text (and comics) on the printed page. The magazine has extended its brand in similar ways with the scripted humor series Shorts & Murmurs, (a play on the magazine’s Shouts & Murmurs), and Cartoon Lounge, wherein cartoon editor Bob Mankoff talks about the magazine’s panels. The New Yorker also regularly produces one-off shorts, investigative reports, and recordings of panel discussions with its reporters. As part of its The Screening Room series, the magazine also purchases the rights to film festival documentaries about some of its core subject areas.