When it was announced last year that New York was going to become a biweekly magazine, there was a good bit of hand-wringing from two overlapping groups of people. The first was print journalists who view (and not without reason) any reduction in dead-tree publications as ominous. And the second was fans of New York, who have long admired the magazine's combination of intelligent and entertaining stories and design, under the editorial eye of Adam Moss. The decision was also accompanied by the typical claims (from the magazine's editors) that the reduced printing schedule would be accompanied by more and longer features, more visuals, and a greater number of pages per issue. It remains to be seen whether that will be the case going forward, but the first new edition is out, running to a very healthly 136 pages.
And ... it is still very similar to the old magazine. If this will be slightly disappointing to people who wanted to see what Moss and his staff could come up with, on the whole it is nice to know that one of the best publications around hasn't been forced to change too much.
In the "Letter From the Editors" that kicks off the issue, the editors claim, "This isn't an overhaul or a redesign or a relaunch, by any means. But it does reflect a rethinking of what we do, and what might make a biweekly different from a weekly." This is basically a fair summary. The 'Intelligencer' section at the beginning of the magazine now has two full columns. This edition's pieces are Jonathan Chait on Marco Rubio and Maureen O'Connor on sexting, and both are excellent. It's slightly dispiriting that the rest of the section consists of largely unmemorable photographs. Previously, there was quirkier, visually alluring, city-centered content, which managed to be engaging even if you both lived outside—and felt some disdain for—New York.
The features section has four stories instead of three, although two of them are heavily reliant on art. The third, Benjamin Wallace-Wells's fascinating piece on California prisons, is slightly longer and meatier than most of the magazine's previous features, and is not at all New York-centric. (Wallace-Wells and Chait are both friends.) The cover story, which appears to have been written by Alec Baldwin, is a semi-deranged rant entitled "I Give Up." It details Baldwin's disputes with Shia LaBeouf and MSNBC, and concludes with his claim that he will "probably" have to leave New York City. Like the liberals who always claim they are on the verge of leaving the country if Republican Candidate X is elected, I remain something more than skeptical of Baldwin's stated desire. Anyway, the piece must have been impossible to turn down even though it isn't very good. (Baldwin also includes, inadvertently, the craziest line of the entire issue: "I like Lawrence O'Donnell, but he's too smart to be doing that show." So O'Donnell is too smart to host the most insufferable show on television, which is the most insufferable show on television entirely because of him?)
The back half of the magazine has new stuff from The Cut, the website's fashion section, and retains more of the consumer content (50 cheeses!) than I would have expected. The critical pieces are largely the same, as are, unfortunately, the cultural profiles, which were always the weakest part of the magazine, alternating as they did between fawning and obsequious. This issue's piece is on the theatre director Alex Timbers. ("Even when he hasn't written a show, it throbs with his big ideas and brainy joy.") Still, it is positive to note that the back pages will supposedly contain more critical essays and features going forward. The always solid Boris Kachka, for example, has a long piece on the world of Oscar bloggers which would surely not have appeared in the back pages prior to this issue.
In all, New York is slightly heavier but still essentially the same. The photographs may be too prevalent but the experience of reading the magazine in print is still greatly enjoyable. The only remaining challenge will be adjusting to the new schedule. It occurred to me that Kachka's piece, engaging as it is, will be stuck on newsstands for an entire week after the Oscars, when it really will feel old. Welcome to the world of biweeklies.