“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Elizabeth Lemon. And, uh, this is what we’re up against. Four more years of a president chosen by people like her. She has an iPad subscription to The New Yorker. She vehemently opposes the Ivory Trade despite the jobs it creates. In her apartment there is a black and white photograph where you can almost see a breast.” – Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
For years now I’ve had a subscription to The New Yorker. I don’t remember how I got hooked on it, but I must have found an interesting article while browsing magazines at an airport because for a year or so I just bought an issue whenever I’d fly somewhere. Then I got an iPad and became obsessed with becoming part of the nouveau tech, so I searched for magazines I could read on my tablet. I now get every week’s issue delivered straight to my iPad and a hard copy in the mail. I could do without the hard copy, but opting to only have a digital edition of the New Yorker after you’ve already received the print version seems to be one of those things that the universe works tirelessly to prevent, along with sudden drops in entropy and time machines. Honestly, I’m not even certain how my subscription is being paid for these days, as I have no clue what credit card they have on file or how said card has not yet expired.
My typical routine is to read the Talk of the Town section and then peruse the titles of the longer form articles. Once every couple months I’ll actually read one of them, especially if the author’s last name is Gladwell. Then I’ll put it down (or close the app) and prepare to do this all over again the following week.
Look, I’d love to say I read the thing cover to cover every week, but I don’t have that kind of time or attention span. I can’t just go reading any 4,000 word piece on the nexus between Silicon Valley and rare Ethiopian pottery, as fascinating as it may be. I have to be more choosy.
And aren’t magazines a little strange anyways? Buying a grab-bag of articles carefully curated by people who you don’t know and may otherwise find dull and tedious if you met them at a cocktail party? I guess it is like a CSA for reading. Except that CSA’s exist because it isn’t particularly easy to go out and collect your own eclectic mix of organic bok choy, radishes and whatever else hippies like to pretend tastes better than processed food. These days there are a thousand apps you can get to automatically generate an endless feed of content filtered using all your selected preferences, and some you didn’t even select but the app knew about because it also scanned every email and text message you’ve ever sent, all for your reading pleasure and at no cost other than what minute bit of sanity you have left.
So no I may not read the magazine as often as I’d like, but I very much appreciate the work the people at The New Yorker do. The two or three articles I’ve read since 2010 have exceeded expectations. I like that unlike Medium or say, this blog, not just anyone can get published in The New Yorker. I like that there are still stories that require doing research and following up with leads and the phrase ‘according to my source…’. I don’t want to live in a world where journalists are forced to write Microsoft sponsored content, curated by autonomous editor-bots, and posted on BuzzFeed alongside a big ‘SnapChat This Post’ button.
So I can’t just walk away from my subscription. To me, magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic are not so different from NPR. They are performing a public service of sorts, keeping an aging tradition alive while CNN.com keeps doing follow-up pieces on where that damn Malaysian airplane might be.
For the foreseeable future, then, I plan to stay a subscriber and help do my part for that noble bastion of liberal smugness. At least until they publish something I’ve written. Then maybe I’ll revisit my subscription.