Before the last slice of cake is eaten from the Reader‘s 40th birthday, I wanted to offer a personal reflection about the paper.

Our editorial team has always consisted of two kinds of workers: the office staff (editors, proofers, designers), and the field hands (writers). Freelancers have also contributed greatly, but I’m talking now about the regular employees. I joined the Reader in 1981 as a field hand. That meant I only stepped into the office to drop off a story.

This arrangement was part of the Reader‘s all-around clever financial plan. Why provide space for writers who could work just as well from their homes—and who would then pay their own phone bills, and buy their own supplies?