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I decided to take a flyer on this — and am kinda wishing I didn’t. It’s fun to get a newspaper in the mail, and I like the look; the parodies of the way headlines were written 125 years ago (several layers deep) are well-done, though they’re imitating what Harry Smith did better in his famous Anthology of American Folk Music

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(That’s a photo of my copy.) 

The problem is that in this first issue the writing is largely indifferent, and once I saw the puff piece on RFK Jr. I knew that this is an exercise in branding — and trolling — more than a serious attempt to finding a new (old) way of doing journalism. 

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Yeah, I get it, you want to own those smug coastal elites. And that’s fine, I guess; but I’m not interested in subsidizing it. I’ve read some excellent writing from David Samuels, but this really is a puff piece, and any responsible editor would’ve asked Samuels to tone down the worshipful rhetoric or at least to ask some serious questions. Unfortunately, Samuels is the editor, or one of them, along with Walter Kirn. Other pieces (some of them also by writers I’ve enjoyed in the past) lack clear structure, or are poorly paced, or succumb to sentimentality and cliché. Maybe things will get better, but I’m not exactly looking forward to the next issue.