There was much consternation in the media world earlier this week when it emerged that Tribune's Los Angeles Times would take its Sunday magazine out of the hands of trained journalists and hand control over to the newspaper's sales staff. Editor Russ Stanton even insisted that the magazine's name be changed so readers didn't get the idea that it still had, you know, integrity. But journalists are as much to blame as the business side for the fact that their work increasingly sounds like catalog copy. Here's ink-stained wretch Rob Walker in his most recent "Consumed" column for New York Times Magazine:
Bose's $350 QuietComfort 3 model, introduced in 2006, has a fold-flat design for easier portability, ensuring sonic isolation as you navigate the melting pot. And the $300 QuietComfort 2 can now be augmented with a "mobile communications kit" for your cellphone.
The headline for the column is "The Silence Generation." The subhead? "QuietComfort Headphones." The "TM" is implied.
Then there's the Times' T Magazine, ostensibly about style but at heart a celebration of products and consumption itself. It followed in the footsteps of the Financial Times' shamelessly named How To Spend It, and is so fabulously profitable that it will be aped by the Wall Street Journal in the form of WSJ. magazine.
Your typical hack at an elite newspaper, one suspects, is not so much opposed to selling out to crass commercialism as he is opposed to doing so ineffectively, without an elegant sheen of respectability and fig leaf of journalistic contemplation that makes a money-grubbing endeavor so much more palatable to the writerly ego. Sales jocks could never understand off such a maneuver. They are way too honest.