‘The New Yorker’ vs. the Obamas
I’ve written a number of times that one way to deal harshly with unfriendly media is to deny access: Issue no press credentials. Force them to stand with their noses to the window pane and regurgitate the same AP or Reuters stories that all the other cheapskate newspapers and magazines use. That the Obama campaign has denied access to The New Yorker is delicious.
I have 104 days to make up my mind, and I’m still not sure about Barack Obama or John McCain. Will this be yet another presidential election where I go into a voting booth holding my nose and pulling the lever for the LOC (Least Objectionable Candidate)?
One thing I’m sure of: David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, and his cover artist, Barry Blitt, should be spanked and sent to bed without supper.
The New Yorker’s cover depiction of Barack Obama in the Oval Office as a mullah bumping knuckles with a terrorist Michelle Obama in an Angela Davis Afro and camo pants with an AK-47 on her shoulder, while an American flag burns in the fireplace and a portrait of Osama bin Laden looks down over the mantel piece, is appalling. [See illustration below.]
“Satire,” is what Remnick calls it.
I call it sabotage—totally over the top and out of bounds.
I have cancelled my subscription to The New Yorker and have demanded a cash refund on all undelivered issues.
A Catastrophe for the Obama Campaign
People believe what they want to believe, and this New Yorker—on newsstands all over the world—will confirm to non-New Yorker readers that the mainstream “Eastern Establishment” views the Obamas as Islamic terrorists.
My prediction is that, between now and Election Day, this image will be all over the Internet and YouTube, as well as on TV, posters, T-shirts, sweat shirts, lawn signs and anti-Obama fliers. In what promises to be a close race, this editorial mischief could tip the election to McCain just as the Swift Boat campaign—and John Kerry’s glacial response to it—went a long way to elect George W. Bush for a second term.
A Prior Run-in With the Newhouse Organization
My innards harbor a smoldering anger at The New Yorker’s owner—Advance Publications and the Newhouse family that controls it. It’s the result of a smarty-pants stunt by a New Yorker writer designed for no other purpose than to hurt magazines—his own and all others.
Magazine blow-ins—the little subscription cards that fall out of magazines—are very, very efficient in bringing in new subscribers. The reason is obvious: If a non-subscriber reads an article in a magazine and wishes to subscribe, the means to do so is at hand. All you do is fill in the postage-paid card and drop it in the mail. The magazine starts arriving, and you pay the bill.
Blow-ins (and bind-ins) are efficient. They are responsible for an average of 12 percent of new magazine subscriptions at a cost per order of $5 to $10—peanuts compared to a direct mail shot.
Back in 1987, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin went on “The Tonight Show” and told Johnny Carson’s millions of viewers how much he hated blow-in cards that keep falling out of magazines. He said that any time the audience members came across a subscription card, they should write a cute little message to the circulation people and drop it in the mail with no name or address and no order. The magazines were stuck paying postage for these blank cards. He also suggested this to readers of his syndicated newspaper column, which appeared in the Conn. Stamford Advocate, my local newspaper at the time. I wrote in the June 1987 issue of WHO’S MAILING WHAT!:
What Trillin at age 52 has revealed is a very sick mind—the same brat mentality of the adolescent computer hackers, who create Trojan horse programs, causing hard disks to crash with an “Arf! Arf! Gotcha!” appearing on the screen. Trillin may be sicker. Where these computer weirdoes create random evil, Trillin dives Kamikaze-like into the very industry that gave him a voice and made him rich.
I went on to urge all readers of WHO’S MAILING WHAT! to find blow-in and bind-in cards from The New Yorker and all other Condé Nast publications and write on them, “Calvin Trillin says hello!” and drop them in the mail.
Readers responded with gusto, happily sending Trillin’s greetings and telling their friends to do likewise. The result was a stinky-poo that got national attention. Not only did I get a whiny phone call from Jonathan Newhouse urging me to call off the dogs, he even sent a stunning blonde from his circulation department over to our booth at Direct Marketing Days New York to plead Condé Nast’s case. I told the Newhouse organization that if it fired Bud Trillin, I would back off. Newhouse didn’t, and I didn’t.
The Current Fallout
At the end of this piece is a David Horsey gag cover for the conservative National Review that ran in The Huffington Post online. It shows old McCain in a wheelchair with young wife Cindy feeding him pills. It’s amusing—an authentic cartoon. But like the Obama cover on The New Yorker, it does nothing to help clarify the myriad knotty issues these candidates are trying to deal with.
My view is darker, reflected in the cartoons by Jon Rettich and Tony Auth of The Philadelphia Inquirer—also shown at the end of this issue. (Click on the images below.)
A ‘Troubled Magazine’
Ultimately, is it smart for The New Yorker’s editor to take a chance on alienating its two major customer bases (advertisers and readers) when its business is teetering in the brink of insolvency? “The New Yorker is now among the most troubled magazines at Condé Nast,” said Keith J. Kelly in The New York Post. He writes:
Through the July 7 issue, The New Yorker is down a staggering 21.2 percent in ad pages to 699.69, compared with the same period a year ago, when it racked up 887, according to Media Industry Newsletter, which tracks the industry. The magazine, whose parent company is S.I. Newhouse’s Advance Publications, was estimated to have lost more than $175 million under his ownership before it finally turned a slight profit in 2002, when David Carey was publisher. At that time, it was pulling in about 2,200 ad pages a year.
Update on a Prior Story—Barbie KOs Bratz!
The June 3, 2008, issue of this e-zine described the ugly lawsuit by Mattel, creator of the Barbie doll series, against MGA Entertainment, whose pouty-lipped Bratz dolls were clobbering Barbie sales. The situation was vastly complicated by Carter Bryant, who dreamed up the Bratz line and sold it to MGA while employed by Mattel as a Barbie designer. In the column, I predicted that Mattel would lose. I was dead wrong. From Nicholas Casey’s story the July 18 Wall Street Journal:
Mattel Inc. and its iconic Barbie doll won a fierce legal battle Thursday when a federal jury in Riverside, Calif., found that rival MGA Entertainment Inc.’s popular Bratz dolls, which have undercut Barbie sales in recent years, were conceived while their designer was employed by Mattel. ... The jury found both MGA and its chief executive, Isaac Larian, liable for “intentional interference” with Mr. Bryant’s contract with Mattel; both “aided and abetted” Mr. Bryant’s “breach of the duty of loyalty” to Mattel, the jury said.