New York Magazine and Me
by John Delach
On April 8, 1968, New York Magazine reappeared as a new stand-alone weekly magazine. My heart leapt with joy to discover this offspring of the late, great New York Herald Tribune had sprung back to life. Prior to the Trib’s demise, New York Magazine had been their Sunday magazine section and featured the Trib’s stable of outstanding writers. I had high-hopes for this new venture, but I soon realized we had a disconnect. Their editors designed the content with an elitist Upper East Side focus that disappointed me. I also suspected that these editors would be disappointed if they knew they had a subscriber like me and so began my love / hate relationship with New York Magazine.
I first discovered the New York Herald Tribune while a student at St. Francis College in Brooklyn in 1961. My newspaper experience growing up was limited to The Daily News and Daily Mirror in the morning and the New York Journal-American at night. College opened my horizon but one look at The New York Times turned me off. All those columns and tiny headlines on the front page reminded me of a tombstone.
The Trib lived right next to The Times on every newsstand and I quickly took a liking to its off-beat approach and especially, the collection of skilled scribes, writers and reporters like Jimmy Breslin, Dick Schaap, Art Buchwald, Tom Wolf and Red Smith. These were giants who could go toe to toe with anyone The Times could bring to bat.
Little did I realize how fragile newspapers were and that their golden age was about to disappear forever. The demise began when Thomas Murphy, the head of The Newspaper Guild, led the largest newspaper union out on strike against The Daily News on November 1, 1962. The other newspapers foolishly joined ranks and ceased publishing. This prolonged the strike / lock out which still could have ended with a reasonable solution. However, on December 8th, Bert Powers, the radical president of the NY Typographical Union, led his Local 6 out on a bloody strike with outrageous demands that would destroy the newspaper industry as we knew it.
By the time the strike ended in 1963, several newspapers were severely damaged. The loss of holiday advertisement for the 1962 season was put at over $100 million and post-strike circulation dropped by almost 12%. Powers name became a curse word outside his union, as the man who killed newspapers.
The Daily Mirror succumbed on October 15, 1963 with the remaining papers deeply wounded yet trying to continue.
The post-strike Trib gave birth to New York Magazine in 1963 as a new concept to enhance its ability to compete with The Sunday Times Magazine. It did enhance my love for The Trib. Breslin and Schaap’s columns regularly ran as did Buchwald’s giving me an extra dose of their journalistic ability. Unlike the later magazine, it had a man-on-the-street approach to covering the city. (Then again, with Jimmy Breslin, how could it not have had this approach.)
The Trib soldiered on for three more years before raising a white flag. That was when a grand merger of three of the traditional but ailing newspapers was announced early in 1966. The Herald Tribune, Journal-American and the World-Telegram & Sun would combine operations producing two daily newspapers, the morning Herald Tribune and the World Journal in the afternoon.
The new entities were scheduled to debut on April 25th, but several newspaper unions went out on strike against, “this cost-cutting consolidation (that) also meant the loss of many jobs for typographers, reporters and editors.” A settlement wasn’t reached until September 12th, 140 days later.
These strikes gutted the new entity, reducing it to a single evening newspaper now christened as the World Journal Tribune. The cripple lasted just over a year until Friday, May 3, 1967. The headline on the last night of business proclaimed: “World Journal Tribune Ends Publication Today.”
I’m not sure how many times I re-subscribed to New York over the years but my M.O. was consistent. I’d see an issue with an article that reflected the city that I believed in. I’d sign on, once again only to be disappointed and turned off by the glut of opinions counter to my own. My last renewal began several years ago. Somehow, I signed on for a perpetual subscription. I kept looking for renewal notices, but none were forthcoming.
Granted, occasional pieces were noteworthy, but it was a slog. Meanwhile, New York, like many other magazines suffered under E-commerce and subscription rates fell off over the last few years. Eventually, they reduced their frequency to two issues a month which extended my subscription. Last fall I received notice that my subscription would expire in the spring.
Any consideration that I would possibly renew ended when they ceased mailing the magazines and bought into a cheaper delivery service. Their magazine would be delivered by the same drivers who brought us Newsday, our local morning newspaper. Delivery has been haphazard at best. I estimate that I have missed at least half of the editions since they began using this service.
I kept waiting and finally the day of my salvation arrived. I received the March 19-April 1 issue clad in a red cardboard jacket that proclaimed: “LAST ISSUE: RENEW NOW!”
No phone calls, e-mails or telegrams.* Perhaps they finally had enough of me too. Whatever:
Adios New York Magazine, I’m free of your clutches at long last!
*Does Western Union still send telegrams?