Magazines Rule, the Beekman Boys Rock, Roseanne Sucks, Plus More Rules for Flacks

Magazines will always be front and center in my home
I've covered the magazine business for 20-something years now. I still can't get enough of them. Which is why they are front and center in my home (this is my coffee table at the moment) and in my life. I buy them for myself, I buy them for friends and family, I get endless ideas from them, I learn about new people and places from them, and I rip out and keep and refer back to the pages that mean something to me. I write stories for them and about them. I read books about them and the people who create them — most recently, Tina Brown's Vanity Fair Diaries, which is delicious if you haven't dived in yet. I have artwork on my walls that is inspired by them. I have close friends and longtime colleagues who make their living off them. I still get excited when they arrive at my desk every week. Digital media has become an indispensable part of all our daily lives, but print makes me feel connected to content in a way machinery and the internet never will. Which is why a good chunk of my working life remains devoted to contributing my own words to them. And why I prefer actual books to ebooks. And why I still subscribe to three daily papers and write letters to the editor and get a thrill when they opt to print them. 

Home to 122 goats
This past Memorial Day weekend was spent over in Sharon Springs, New York, at the town's annual Garden Party, where we took a tour of the Beekman Boys' famous goat farm and picked up a passel of awesome handcrafted products of theirs and other local shopkeepers, artists and artisans — barbecue sauce, peanut butter, soaps and lotions. Meeting and visiting with the "boys" — Brent Ridge and Josh-Kilmer Purcell — in their shop, Beekman 1802 Mercantile, was good fun, though, having followed their successes in marketing and media all these years, it felt like I already knew them. (I'd actually already met Josh, a former ad guy, a time or two in passing. We have some mutual acquaintances and have been Facebook friends for a while.) It was especially interesting to chat up Brent — an expat of Martha Stewart's empire — about their terrific quarterly magazine, Beekman 1802 Almanac, one of the most beautiful and soulful lifestyle titles I've ever come across. Brent told me they had wondered whether a big, thick, lushly produced print magazine would fly in this day and age, and it did — right off the shelves. He seemed pleased that they'd sold so many subscriptions at a premium price (30 bucks for four issues; the newsstand price is 10 bucks). It's always mystified me that magazine publishers virtually give their products away — and never more than now, as they become ever more desperate to compete with digital media and hold onto readers. (Just look at the number of $5 annual subscription offers you get in your email box.) The boys have proved that consumers will — even in our digital age — pony up for a lovingly crafted, high-quality product. 

From national treasure to national disgrace
When I first read about Roseanne's horrific tweet whose contents shall not be repeated here, I literally got sick to my stomach. Then, the media reporter part of me kicked in and wondered how in the world ABC was going to deal with this mess. It wasn't too long before we all got the answer. In one quick moment, Roseanne destroyed her show, her career and the livelihoods of many people who'd taken a chance on her despite the strange, hateful fringe she's been loving up to for a while now. Someone shared this bit of nostalgia on social media: a TV Guide cover from the 80s featuring the two biggest TV stars of the day, Roseanne and Bill Cosby. How time changes things. From superstars to national punchlines in just three short decades. No matter one's successes or fame or money, it seems human beings simply cannot be trusted to not succumb to their own worst instincts.

How you PR flacks make me feel sometimes
Finally, I'd just like to say that I usually, greatly enjoy my job as a journalist. I have found that most people who've managed to survive this business for any stretch of time are a pleasure to work with, and that goes for bosses and colleagues I've had, subjects I've covered, and even the PR people whose job it is to control my access to the powers that be and at least attempt to shape the things I write about them. I am proud to say that I have many PR people I think are super at their jobs, who expertly ride that tricky line between serving their masters and getting me what I need to do my work. Many of them I consider friends. Which is why it makes the bad ones so glaringly awful. I just have to share with you that I've spent the last two weeks trying to arrange a quick and easy interview with a bureaucrat through his handlers, who seem to think they are negotiating either the release of a hostage or the terms of a 60 Minutes firing squad. After the umpteenth time of going over the broad strokes of what the talk was to entail — and even agreeing to do that which no reporter ever wants: sending over the questions in advance — I finally reached the point today where I told the flack: Look, this is now in your hands. The decision is yours whether or not this profile is going to happen. If there is not an interview set up by end of business today, I will assume my request is denied and I will find someone else to write about. By now you can probably write the end of this story yourself: Of course they caved and started scrambling to get me whatever I wanted. A close friend of mine gave me some smart advice once about getting information out of people: Act the most uninterested, get the most dirt. In her memoir, Linda Ellerbee shared a story about an interview she once tried to do with an erratic Hunter S. Thompson, who seemed more interested in mouthing off and prancing about than sitting for an agreed-upon, on-camera conversation. All she had to do was start packing up her shit and heading for the exit to get the famous writer to finally get control of himself and sit his ass down for the work at hand. Sometimes all you have to do is tell some self-important jerk you didn't really want to talk to him all that much anyway, that he's not nearly as remarkable or fascinating as he thinks he is, and that you've got a lot better things to do with your time — and just watch how fast he comes running. It's an annoying little game for an adult to have to play with another adult, but also a necessary one to get the story — and one every old reporter can relate to when it comes to wrestling these massive egos to the ground.

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