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Friday, March 26, 2004

Fact-Checking The Village Voice


On March 24th, 2004, the “alternative” newsweekly The Village Voice (a.k.a. “New York’s freest newspaper”) ran an item in Cynthia Cotts’s “Press Clips” column that caught the collective eye of this humble journal (thanks to the pathological clicking of the refresh button at Romenesko, a media-centric smorgasbord). The article, “California, Ho!,” does not, as its title might suggest, concern Miss Jamie-Lynn Sigler DiScala’s racy portrayal of the notorious Hollywood slattern Heidi Fliess in a made-for-television docudramatic biopic. Rather, it focuses on the less scintillating, more soporific details of a surge in The New Yorker’s occidental readership (California, ho-hum?), and a secondary item concerning the Web log as self-parody, or something.

The Voice, being a periodical supported by the golden teat of the fetish-delivery industry, characteristically goldbricks routine fact checking and other tedious chores, and thus a smattering of errors and oversights have slithered into Ms. Cotts’s reportage. Luckily, no mistake escapes the aquiline eyes of Wally Puggins, Y.P.R.’s plucky intern, proofreader, and fact-checker. To wit:

The [1976] cartoon helped spawn the myths that New Yorkers think only about themselves …

Nonsense. New Yorkers have been N.Y.C.-centric since the days of swapping land for trinkets. As proof, see every movie, book, TV show, play, or anecdote set in New York City.

… more people read the weekly in California than in New York …

Numerically impossible, as California’s literacy rate is only 23%.

“It’s become the cool thing to read The New Yorker in California,” Carey boasted last week.

Nope. Wormwood is the cool thing in California. Also, shooting smack between the toes.

… the magazine’s total paid circulation in California reached 167,580, exceeding sales in New York for the first time.

This figure is misleading; Steve Martin alone bought 15,000 copies to tile the floor of his private art gallery with tear sheets of his most recent Back Page.

Paid circulation in New York for that period reached 166,630.

But sales figures do not equal eyeballs reading the magazine. For every precocious fifth-grader who brings an issue to his Upper West Side prep-school class, there’s a thirty-to-one readership. [Judging from my own experiences bringing Swank, a similar magazine, to my own elementary school.]

And David Denby wraps his lunch in “Talk of the Town.” So that’s ten or twelve copies accounted for, too.

Says Carey, “People think of us as a regional publication” …

No they don’t.

Editor David Remnick seems to be increasing coverage of the entertainment industry …

Technically, true, as last fall’s “Movie Issue” profiled “entertainer” Jaime Pressly, putting The New Yorker in the élite company of Maxim, Stuff, FHM, Gear, and my downloaded screensaver.

It’s just a coincidence that Lillian Ross is hitting L.A. at high tide.

As did a meteor in Deep Impact, if memory serves.

… the median age of readers has dropped from 49 to 44.

The median age; not the mean or mode, mind you. A more catholic study of readers’ ages would reveal two disparate groups: septuagenarians who checked off “Lifetime subscription” during the days of swing music, and twenty-something lit hipsters who lay the magazine on their lap so that they can roll joints on the L train. These two demographics probably average out somewhere near 44.

… changes that Remnick has made to the magazine, “to contemporize it,” and changes on the West Coast, specifically all the “incredibly bright young people” who have high-tech jobs there.

Where to start on this one?

- California has no “incredibly bright” young people; the best the state has to offer is a pair of attractive, identical-twin, billionaire mogul/actresses, and they do not have a subscription.

- The West Coast high-tech jobs went the way of the trucker cap when the bubble burst in 2000. Now, former dot-commers and techies are once again fetching lattés for Weinsteins, as they damn well should be.

- Wait, Remnick thinks The New Yorker is “contemporary”? Ripping good laugh, that! 23 skidoo!