March 21, 2023

New York Magazine: Smart People Talking

By Claire Mulcahy

Passion. Empathy. Voice. People. On March 8, 2023, students from the NYU Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts attended an industry visit at New York Magazine which evoked these four words. Every step of the way introduced a new perspective on what makes this magazine important.

New York Magazine is a bi-weekly publication founded in 1978. And while other magazines have been around even longer, there is something special about the New York Magazine community. Hearing from a variety of staff illuminated this was no ordinary company. “It is the quality of the people. We hire really well and create a nurturing culture that expects that everybody brings their best work to the table, and I do think that’s kind of rare,” said Editor-in-Chief David Haskell. Walking around the office and hearing from the community confirmed this. Staffers showed us visual idea boards, layouts of current and future issues, and feature article ideas; they told us the stories behind these pieces, and their passion and focus rang loud and clear. Mariam Aldhahi, Managing Editor says, “It kind of feels like everyone is in their dream job.” I felt this way as well.

The magazine has six digital, subject-specific offshoots —The Cut, The Strategist, Intelligencer, Grub Street, Curbed, and Vulture— each with its own brand, content and team. Everyone was friendly, welcoming and surprisingly relaxed, even with an upcoming deadline. I had assumed an office publishing bi-weekly would be a high-stress environment. While it runs at a high pace, the staff has managed to cultivate a relaxed environment while producing at a high level.


NYU MS in Publishing Students at the New York Magazine Office

Passion. Hearing from Jody Quon, Photo Director, and Tom Alberty, Design Director, this word began to take form. Before us was the layout of the magazine for the following Monday, as well as previous issues showcasing covers and graphics for stories. Jody and Tom shared the joys and challenges of their jobs. Jody had palpable passion for her role and the company. She told the story of her favorite cover. Every year, they release a special “Reasons to Love New York” issue. This one came as New York began to emerge from quarantine. Through collaboration and brainstorming, the staff landed on a beautiful photo idea that required the support of all departments. She described “a family affair” as staff went to work contacting celebrities asking them to show up on a specific corner in New York City on an exact day and time. The preparation was intense and a true all-hands-on-deck situation. Seventy celebrities showed up. Seventy. As Jody talked about it, the sense of gratitude she felt for her team and the company came through. The cover photo is stunning. She continued, “While we were celebrating New Yorkers coming together, it truly was also a celebration of the staff coming together.” This story stuck with me because of the emotion it elicited from her.

Empathy. As others spoke, more key words emerged. When a publication deals with sometimes controversial and loaded topics, such as their issue titled “This Magazine Can Help You Get an Abortion,” empathy and compassion are necessary. One prominent features writer, Lisa Miller, has written in-depth articles dealing with subjects such as school shootings and other examples of violence. She spoke about the necessity of being sensitive with interviewees: “Don’t act like you know everything. Don’t act like you know anything. Just show up, be quiet, look at them in their faces.” This sentiment will stay with me. The importance of empathy and compassion is often overlooked, especially in journalism, but at New York Magazine, it is a focus.

Voice. One of the key components to making the magazine what it is. “We want to have a lot of individual voices,” said Genevieve Smith. She used the phrase “a cacophony of really smart people talking,” and it cemented why this magazine is different from others. They celebrate everyone’s voice. They encourage everyone’s voice. David Haskell spoke to the throughline of the magazine’s voice over five decades of publication, but also to the ways in which the magazine’s voice is “of its time” and changes as time goes on. He ties it up with, “There’s not a fixed North Star, but there always needs to be one.”

People. New York Magazine celebrates humanity. The company nurtures each voice. Each voice employs empathy. The work inspires passion. And the product proves all these things. The magazine is about the people. As a student of the publishing program, it was truly inspiring to see a media company so devoted to its employees and consumers.

Claire Mulcahy is a first-year student in the M.S. in publishing program. She’s an alumna of the University of San Diego, where she was an anchor for USDtv News and an active performer in the theater department. She hopes to be a book editor or book designer, and dreams of writing novels.

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