If the Wall Street Journal had set a team of researchers to find a more gloriously ironic statement of print's dark struggle for survival, they couldn't have found a better one than their very own story featuring Governor Sarah Palin which appeared in the launch edition of their new magazine this weekend.
That's right. Governor Sarah Palin, not vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. They obviously packaged and shipped this story well in advance of the news, so they've got a two-page feature on our favorite Hockey Mom and her exercise routine that is an instant, chilling anachronism. It goes into every journalist's fresh hell chamber.
But that's merely the beginning of this ill-conceived, ill-timed and epically copy-cattish endeavor, from the cover - a clumsy, solipsistic shot of a woman in a WSJ paper dress (a strange and otherwise un-referenced homage to the 1960s) - to the head-scratching organizing principle of the TOC. The latter bifurcates the contents into "Hunter" and "Gatherer", except there's no rhyme or reason to the split: why does racecar collection earn the sign of a hunter, while a jewelry story is stuck in the cross hairs of the gatherer?
The department headers are flat and uninspired, with such leaden thuds as "Most Stylish", "The Way We Wear", "Donate", "The Nose", and "Lust After." The content is equally dun, from a dreary, much-told, insight-free story about collecting American folk art, to a no-cherry-inside obligatory profile of a 21st century dropout: this time, a creative soul who rejects "a high profile legal career" to become an artisanal chocolate maker.
Beyond the unfortunate timing of the Sarah Palin story is the unfortunate timing of the launch in general. It's a grim time for luxe, particularly pure Veblenian, and humorless luxe like this. It's nothing I haven't read before, seen before, cringed at before. If you're going to dance at the edge of the cliff, then don't dance like your parents.
In fact, my first reaction was that the Wall Street Journal magazine was an explicit clone of the "How to Spend" it drool-fest supplements put out by the Financial Times. But who would have thought that this was actually intentional, as I discovered on SeekingAlpha.com:
"Its creative director, Tomaso Capuano, last worked on the Financial Times supplement How to Spend It, but Thomson said his work for the Journal is superior. "How to Spend It is like a BMW 3-series, and this is a BMW 7-series," he said."
That's an inadvertently telling confession of derivity. Can anyone even tell a BMW apart from an Accord these days? I can't believe that Murdoch is making such a big bet on a few inches of legroom and a nicer cupholder.
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