New York

On Oct. 14, Bruce Wasserstein -- CEO of Lazard. Ltd. and owner of New York magazine -- died suddenly. The event had the makings of a classic New York article: Financier-Owner Dies! What's Next For New York Magazine? Speculation about the magazine's future did appear. Callous? Perhaps! Downright ghoulish? Maybe. But, hey, this is publishing and this is New York! You got a problem with that?

A quickly released notice assured staff and public that Wasserstein family ownership and support would continue.

From its birth in 1968, New York has been an insider's look at all that makes the city tick: money, sex, power, influence, coping and culture (as in both arts and anthropology). Its creators, Clay Felker and Milton Glaser,launched a beast that was brash, brilliant, incisive and exciting -- the perfect read for this city. Regular contributors over the years included Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill, Gloria Steinem, Nik Cohn, Janis Hopkins Tanne, Gael Greene, Richard Goldstein, Gail Sheehy, Nicholas Pileggi, Muchael Tomasky, Jim Kramer, Steve Fishman, John Leonard, Michael Wolff and Tom Wolfe (this is where I learned to swoon over Tom Wolfe's writing and recoil from the elitist mind that spawned it.) Cohn's piece about a Bay Ridge Brooklyn disco went to Hollywood and became "Saturday Night Fever."

When any mind, body, social, wallet or cultural trend popped up and ran through our streets, New York revealed it, dissected it, explained it, and made it yours.

Milton Glaser's original design was clean and sophisticated. It became an unofficial template for magazines across the country. Current design director Chris Dixon, while retaining Glaserian elements, provides a hotter, more in-your-face look. The magazine has a heritage of consistently fine writing. Fuhgedaboutit! The current writing may intrigue and satisfy; it does not astonish. Still, New York's tradition of embracing what makes the city fascinating, engrossing, helpful and newsy lives on. The tone is peer-to-peer -- more specifically, smartass to smartass. New Yorkers have an image to uphold and feel obliged to be faster, brighter, hipper, sharper then those, whom shall we say, are geographically challenged. Oh yes, and we're humbler. And the magazine helps.

The Nov. 2 cover story is "The Sex Diaries," based on X-rated TMI entries on the magazine's Web site. In Wesley Yang's essay, he writes: "The editors of this magazine asked me to read all 800 pages of the Sex Diaries, and, using them as a source text, develop some kind of taxonomy of contemporary sexual anxieties."

Socially redeeming copy in defense of voyeurism is no vice.

And speaking of libidos, the issue also has stories about Rudy Giuliani ("The Indecider") and David Letterman ("The Devil in David Letterman"). Giuliani is coy about running for governor; he's really just interested in building his business. Why does Dave act the way he does? He's a self-loathing loner.

In addition to features, New York has four key sections that reflect the tempo of the city. They are "Intelligencer," a front-of-the-book look at power, politics and achievement; "Strategist," a guide to shopping, eating. real estate and such; "Culture Pages," reviews, interviews, and arts reportage; and "Agenda," listings, Marketplace and Personals ads, a crossword and "The Approval Matrix."

New York magazine's readership is affluent, educated and, on the average, 40ish. As befits its audience and niche, New York's ad categories include retail, home improvement, luxury, personal finance, arts, travel, medical and classifieds. In addition, there are themed advertising sections that range (depending on issue) from "Restaurants and Bars" to "Fitness" to "Medical" to "Travel."

The increasing use of graphic presentations suggests some effort to attract more young 'uns. The end page's "Approval Matrix" highlights the despicable and brilliant in high and low cultures; it's a gimmicky collection of "what's hot and what's not" items. Yawn. The "Intelligencer" section begins with an illustrated timeline (Nov. 2 is about "Bernie Kerik's Tumble.") "Gossipmonger" has four items, each with an illustration and caption. (Item: "Richard Gere returned his Sauvignon Blanc at the Amelia premiere party and asked for a white wine that was drinkable.")

New Yorkers feel compelled to exhibit street smarts and street cred. We know the trends. We know the inside story, the inside track, the inside dope. Does New York magazine help with this? You bet -- or, as they say in L.A., trust me.


Published by: New York Media LLC

Frequency: 46 times a year

Web site:

2 comments about "New York".
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  1. John Capone from Whalebone, November 4, 2009 at 3:27 p.m.

    I'd say Sam Anderson's writing in New York can be pretty astonishing. Other than that, spot-on assessment.

  2. Ann Romeo from Guideline, November 4, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.

    What I love best about New York is that, at its best, it picks up on the trends we all will be concerned with 6 months later.

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