“I’m just delighted for the writers,” said New Yorker editor David Remnick on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the American Society of Magazine Editors revealed the finalists for the 2011 National Magazine Awards. The New Yorker led the day again with nine nominations. “It never gets old,” he said. “It’s extremely gratifying.”

The New Yorker is followed closely by New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine and the Virginia Quarterly Review, all with six chances to win. Condé Nast leads the big magazine companies with a combined 25 nominations, to Time Inc.’s nine and Hearst’s six.

This story first appeared in the April 6, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Asked about Jane Mayer’s chances to beat Michael Hastings and his profile of General Stanley McChrystal for Rolling Stone with her profile of the billionaire Koch brothers, Remnick was optimistic. “Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston, right? Princeton beat UCLA. Anything can happen,” he said. “Ali beat Foreman. I think Jane’s piece is enormously important.”

“I think we feel a little bit like the underdog that gets the bone,” said Stefano Tonchi, whose relaunch of W received three nominations — one in each of the two photography categories and one for general excellence.

“I’m very, very happy because, you know, we only submitted what we had — that was September, October, November,” Tonchi said. “As much as photography is always something that people always expect from W, this is more than we expected. And you see the competition, somehow, it’s like National Geographic — wow. And The New York Times Sunday Magazine — they’re big magazines.”

Tonchi, who has judged the awards in years past, missed out this year because he was in Milan for fashion week. “It was my first year that I was not there because they changed the date,” he said. “I think the only die-hard fashion journalist that left the shows to judge was Cindi Leive.”

Another first this year: Magazines nominated for the General Excellence award have been grouped by subject matter and target audience into Golden Globes-like categories (Best Musical or Comedy!), not by circulation as before. W will face mightier, high-circulation magazines like Vogue and Real Simple in a women’s interest category — the so-called Fashion, Service and Lifestyle group. Meanwhile, GQ will have to fend off the ever-formidable Backpacker, Bloomberg Markets, Popular Mechanics and Scientific American for a general excellence win in the Finance, Technology and Lifestyle men’s interest category.

“The great and nutty thing about this particular award is it’s not always apples to apples. Sometimes it’s apples and falafel,” said Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel about the Design category. His title was surprisingly not nominated there. “Our design pushes people’s buttons,” he said. “I think it’s clean and I think it’s very smart. There are other people who may not agree, and I’m OK with that.”

Instead, Businessweek is up for an award in the Single-Topic Issue category for the yearend issue. “If we’re going to be nominated for our craziest stuff, I can live with that,” Tyrangiel said.

“I would never, ever, ever anticipate that your own estimation of your work equals a certain number of nominations,” he added later, “unless you’re Adam Moss and David Remnick, who are generally always right about that.”

Finalists for Magazine of the Year will be unveiled Tuesday. ASME award winners will hoist their strange Alexander Calder-inspired trophies over dinner, also a first for the ASMEs, on May 9 at 583 Park Avenue.

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