So maybe the first question that comes to mind when reading Alex Kuczynski’s New York Times Magazine cover story about hiring a surrogate mother to carry her child is whether or not it would have been a cover story if the author hadn’t been a long-time style reporter for the paper. Because, while not the most common thing is surrogate motherhood really news any more? We all know the Magazine has a tendency to be a bit behind on its ‘the way we live now’ pieces (also, the picture of Kuczynski holding her son with a black nanny gazing on really just reinforces the worst part of the Times so-called elitist reputation) and obviously the Magazine had no way to predict the news from Mumbai this weekend, but still — with everything going on was this really worthy of a cover? Or does it matter?
Kuczynski, who has had a sometimes tempestuous relationship with her readers for her reports on expensive shopping trends, and plastic surgery for the Times (she also wrote a book called Beauty Junkies about her escapades with plastic surgery) only managed to draw 400 or so comments on her piece — to put that in perspective Maureen Dowd’s Sunday op-ed about having her job outsourced clocked in at 586 and Emily Gould’s much-talked about cover-story closed at 1200 (after being shut down temporarily). Not that cover-worthiness should be measured by comments, but still you get the sense the powers that be were probably hoping for a more overwhelming response.
The second question that comes to mind is whether it is appropriate for the Times to feature personal features done by staff on the cover at all? You will recall that an excerpt from David Carr’s (excellent) memoir The Night of the Gun also got similar treatment back in July. Of course, that said, would it be good business to let their good writer’s go elsewhere?