I read, with horror, this morning about yet another stunning blow to the publishing industry. It seems that three, count them, three magazine editors in New York descended into unspeakable depths. Down they went, step by well-heeled step, into the bowels of common experience.
They took the subway.
It is not clear to me whether they ventured underground en masse, an imposing triumverate braced against the riff and raff, or whether they rode solo, belongings clenched under arms, eyes spinning around their heads like siren lights. However they traveled, the fact that their foregoing the Mercedes limo for public transportation is news, disgusts me. On several levels.
First, as “New Yorkers” (one is actually the editor of the magazine named the New Yorker, another of Gourmet and the last, Portfolio), you’d think they’d want to feel the beat of the place on a regular basis. I don’t know, but when I report on the circus, I want to ride the elephant. Sure, these people felt the beat years ago, when they had to because they weren’t editors and didn’t have drivers, but I don’t think memories are good enough. If you write about food, you have to shlep, as it were, on the sidewalk and smell the aromas. If you write about money, you have to rub up with the people putting tokens in the turnstyle, especially these days. And, heaven for bid, if you write about a city, or direct other people to write about a city, you have to, well, feel the city.
Second, I don’t like when people think they are better than other people because they have more money, or access to services that money provides.
Third, I don’t like when people toss aside the things that most people rely on out of necessity and could not live without. Toss out Oreos.
Fourth, it gives my profession a bad reputation. It is hypocritical. Why didn’t these people take the subway, and the bus, before they lost all the ad pages and fired huge segments of their staff, the ones who routinely take the subway and the bus?
When I had my first job as an editorial assistant at Working Woman Magazine on 43rd and Madison, I took the bus to work. My editor didn’t like that I was sometimes late. But, I told her that I come up with ideas on the bus, and write them down in a notepad. The ideas always came from what I saw, in the seat next to me, in the aisle, from the lady screaming to the driver before she got on. Sometimes, I nearly missed my stop. My editor tolerated the lateness because I was doing my job.
I think these editors should get out their little notepads and look around, again. My hunch is they’ve been missing the best stories.