Behind the Relaunch of The New York Times Magazine

22 Feb Cover of The New York Times Magazine

For some months, The New York Times has been readying a “relaunch” of its Sunday magazine, and in this column editor Jake Silverstein talks about its impending debut, this weekend:

We have used the hammer and the tongs but perhaps not the blowtorch; we sought to manufacture a magazine that would be unusual, surprising and original but not wholly unfamiliar. It would be a clear descendant of its line. This magazine is 119 years old; nearly four million people read it in print every weekend. It did not need to be dismantled, sawed into pieces or drilled full of holes. Instead, we have set out to honor the shape of the magazine as it has been, while creating something that will, we hope, strike you as a version you have never read before.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it, especially what the Magazine’s talented design director, Gail Bichler, has cooked up for its presentation. She and her staff have commissioned new, bespoke typefaces as well as a subtle but in my opinion quite wonderful redrawing of the Magazine’s logo, seen here with the original on top and the new one below it. The Magazine has long been a showcase for some truly superb editorial design, and I have no doubt that the current team will continue the tradition.

Reesign of The Magazine’s Logo by Matthew Carter

What I’m less sure of is whether they can get me interested in the Magazine’s journalism again. I’m a regular, devoted reader of The Times’ daily reporting, but I almost never bother with its Magazine pieces. More often than not, I find them much shallower than I expect from Times writers who have been given the room to write at length about ostensibly interesting subjects. For me, the Magazine’s articles generally pale in comparison with the thoughtfulness and extensively researched quality I find at The New Yorker or other “thinking” magazines. Given the amount of reading material that crosses my desk in a given week, the Sunday Magazine almost always loses out.

It’s also true that part of my objection owes to the fact that I find the magazine format less than enthralling these days. With few exceptions, it’s my experience that magazines generally can’t justify why all of a given issue’s content is bundled together, why I need to bother with the obvious filler that so often consumes the “front of the book,” and why so many long format stories are as long as they are. It’s not that I think that blog posts and Medium articles are sufficient intellectual sustenance for the modern mind. Rather I find that between the plethora of worthwhile reading material available on the Internet from independent sources and the sheer number of quality books out there that I haven’t yet read, the very idea of magazines seems less compelling to me than ever before.