Thursdays are always a big day in the journalism world. It is the day of the week when the femme edition of the New York Times comes out, with both Styles and Home sections full of ads for weekend shoppers.
I started out in life writing for one of the so-called soft news sections of a great metropolitan daily newspaper. Not only was it not soft news, it was the only way to cover what was happening, the only real news written in the hard-fought style of the New Journalism. Tracking the permutations of the so-called soft news sections of the newspaper since the halcyon days when we invented rock ‘n’ roll, ended racial ‘n’ sexual discrimination ‘n’ The War, and invented the dear departed New Journalism, is the way of the ice floe.
Oddly enough, I’ve been a fan of the derriere garde ladymags all these years, and when the Times femme section editors decide to be exciting and cover something New, like how to talk to your children about internet porn, in the way of Home or Styles, something butch, like — I can’t remember the specific piece that made my heart sink recently. It wasn’t DIY wi-fi installation, wiring, real estate resale, asphalting your own driveway — all those things are femme these days, with my beloved house blogger chicks each and all wielding big bad power tools with enviable Born This Way girly muscles. Watching Ana White measure out roof trusses for the duplex she is building for her mother and mother-in-law, in Alaska, people, gives me the same thrill I felt forty years ago, first reading the famous Click essay by Jane O’Reilly in the incendiary, premier Ms. preview insert of New York magazine. Click. Yeah, I’m a feminist. You are too.
The NYT Home story that made my heart sink would have been in the soul-murdering R.W. Apple tradition of the Grey Lady, when she gets one of her very fast writers to churn out 5,000 words on such a re-re-rendering of received wisdom squeezed from a 500-year-old turnip, that you wonder if they’d know what news is if it bit them on the big grey booty. And there are real news stories out there in the Home and Styles world — how the one per cent live: techno MacMansions, the brutalist masculinist Playboy philosophy homes of the software moguls at the top of the Home list, and — well, there’s a million story ideas for Styles. Blatant elbows-out plagiarism among the MILF-porn house blogger bitches seeking monetization, for one thing.(What’s up with Heather Armstrong? Penelope Trunk? Yipes.) That whole suburban MILF-porn tube-top-‘n’-chandelier-earrings-SUV-devil-spawn-train-wreck phenom that kept my eyes glued to the nanny shows. Cheese with that? Yes, please.
Why it is I still look forward to the Thursday femme edition when it so seldom delivers news I’m far ahead of them on can only be attributed to nosiness. Glimpses of what other people are doing with their houses — the guy and his girlfriend with separate Caribbean Boho bungalows on a small tropical property, ohhh! — is pretty much all I care about, and it extends to Katherine Boo’s shacks in the Mumbai slum of Annawadi. How do you build and decorate one? All us survivalists, headed into 40 years of old age with no Social Security, need to know.
So today I open the femme edition. On page one, there’s a mysterious non-story about what didn’t happen when the Chinese dissident was forced out? — of the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
There was, as the lede of the Home section, a tour of the White House. Been there, done that. How about an interview with Michele’s mother, who didn’t want to move in because it was a museum? How did she deal? How about a story on the massive bunker/”Visitor Center”/green zone that has been built around the White House and under the Washington Monument since 9/11? In what way would the billions spent ward off either an airplane attack — was the Pennsylvania plane really headed for the White House? — or a handheld missile launcher attack by a pedestrian on 16th Street? You can buy one with your credit card in Alexandria. For realz. That’s a nice Home Land Security story, the closing by George W. Bush of the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue to the public. Where is it?
In Styles, a completely unreadable story by the wonderful Guy Trebay flogging something nobody gives a spit about — another ratfark art show, billed as possibly New York’s version of Art Basel Miami Beach. My eyes glaze over. Cover the cruising story, yes. The predatory collecting habits of the one per cent — the world-record shattering $120 million for a bad version of “The Scream”? — yes. The ratfark? The art? Is not the story. Sorry, Guy. It feels like the sports reporters who won’t cover the NFL brain injury/Junior Seau story. They fear, by covering the cruising/collecting stories, losing their access.
Give me Ana White and her pink power drill any day. And git ‘er done.