Sunday, March 30, 2014

The New Traveler

Christy Turlington's head has been on my coffee table for almost a month—ever since a friend handed me the March issue of Condé Nast Traveler as I was passing through New York. This is the magazine that sent me to Moscow in 2009, and Paris in 2012, and sustained me, body and soul, for twelve years. Losing my job there in 2013 during a changing of the guard was a stab in the heart. So, as you can imagine, I was not eager to see what had become of the spoils in the hands of the conquerors. This morning, however, with March about to pass into oblivion and the April issue already on the stands, I mustered the courage for a thorough inspection. Here's what I found.
The new magazine carries the old motto, "Truth in Travel"—ouch. That slogan, which goes back to the magazine's roots, is a promise by the founding editors to outlaw any behavior that would arouse accusations of bias—no free hotel stays, meals, airline upgrades, and so on. Under the new leadership, however, that policy has been terminated. The slogan should be retired, too.
            Otherwise, I like the cover. It's a lovely, moody image that says "travel," and the Ray-Ban logo on the lens of Christy's glasses is so tiny that I almost didn't notice it.
Inside, too, the new Traveler is beautiful—clean and crisp. Pilar Guzman, the new editor, used to edit Martha Stewart Living, which is also clean and crisp—unlike Martha's Forty-second Street offices, where I used to edit cookie recipes in a dark corridor outside the men's room.
            There isn't much text. That's because media gurus tell us that nobody reads anymore, and magazine people tend to believe this. We're all on life support.
            What there is—text, I mean—is mostly written not by journalists but by "real people." This is explained, in the editor's letter, as a nod to social media. Real people, in this case, include Jacques Pepin, who says, helpfully, that he never leaves home without his kitchen knives.
            There's lots more advice from Pilar and friends about what to pack (e.g., harem pants if you're going to India) and what to buy (Sanex deodorant if you're passing through Heathrow).
            The toothiest article in the feature well is a piece about Rio, a complex city on the verge of change as it prepares for two world sporting events. It reminds me, nostalgically, of the old Traveler. Tellingly, it is written not by a real person but by Simon Romero, the New York Times bureau chief in Brazil.
            My husband, who loves to travel, picked up the March issue and quickly put it down with the comment : "A lot more ads." Well, yes. That's the whole point, dear.
Christy, by the by, has been featured in Traveler before, as a 2012 recipient of the magazine's Global Citizens award (one of the many ways in which the old Traveler wore its conscience on its sleeve). The 2012 honorees were announced in the 25th-anniversary issue, which had Hillary Clinton on the cover. Not the wisest choice, perhaps, from an advertising standpoint. It's hard to argue with a raybanned supermodel. Certainly Christy looks better on the side of a bus.
            As for a slogan that befits the new magazine, I kind of like "Travel Lite."


  1. I bought this magazine on a whim to see what you told me about the new magazine. Yeah, travel lite. I totally agree.
    loving you

  2. I don't read this mag, but sounds like you are damning with faint praise?

    1. As a magazine insider said to me recently: "So much carnage for such mixed results." I would change "mixed" to "vapid."