September 21, 2012

The 36-year-old magazine you’ve never heard of?


To be fair, The New York Times does its share of breaking news, but yesterday’s article introducing readers to Mother Jones, “the left-leaning magazine that was founded above a McDonald’s restaurant in San Francisco 36 years ago” comes off sounding so out of the loop that one cannot help wondering who, exactly, the Times is trying to teach.

Mother Jones was the first general interest magazine to go online, back in 1993. It is also, of course, a well-established and respected print magazine that has won six National Magazine Awards. Its Web site is currently enjoying a moment in the sun as being the platform from which the now infamous video that aired earlier this week showing Mitt Romney sticking his perfectly polished loafer directly into his silver-spooned mouth.

As the video became a media sensation, for a moment Mother Jones quite possibly became the third most uttered term after Romney and forty-seven percent.

Indeed, the Times reports:

Clara Jeffrey, a co-editor of Mother Jones, said that after the story’s publication on Monday afternoon, Mother Jones’s Web site received nearly two million page views in the first 12 hours …”

I’m assuming Times’ readers are an informed lot, meaning most already know of Mother Jones or at the very least can quickly figure out what the hell it is once they go to the Web site to watch the video, which is why it was baffling to see a humorously stale article printed on page A15 of Thursday’s paper.

In its defense, the article does share some of the juicy backstory behind how Mother Jones acquired the video.

“The video was obtained by David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, who wrote the accompanying article.”

Holy smokes, thanks New York Times!

Rounding out this jewel of journalism is the clipped account of Mother Jones’ history, which says:

“In the words of its founder, Adam Hochschild, [Mother Jones] “was born in a time of upheaval,” with the remnants of the 1960s still lingering and the impact of the Watergate Scandal being felt. It was named after Mary Harris Jones, an Irish immigrant and prominent union organizer at the turn of last century, according to the magazine’s Web site.”

It’s good to know interested readers can rely on the Times for reporting what’s already on another Web site’s About Page.

The article concludes with a wonderfully banal summation of Mother Jones’ coup, and the reason for its continued success from Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism:

Mother Jones benefited partly because it delivered a story at a time when “there’s a tinderbox quality and a lot of press waiting around” covering the campaigns.”

All this has got me thinking about slogans. Mother Jones’ is “smart, fearless journalism” while the Times’ is “all the news that’s fit to print.”

At least in this case, those sound right on the money.

Speaking of which …




Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.