WESTLAND, Mass. Tony Aramaio has been Superintendent of Solid Waste in this bucolic suburb of Boston for 16 years, but he still faces the coming trash disposal season with trepidation. “I’m probably gonna have to move a lot of scrap metal around,” he says as he gazes out at the town’s crowded “transfer station,” a euphemism for what in former times would have been called a dump.
It isn’t cardboard shipping boxes, gift wrap and discarded Christmas trees that have Aramaio on edge, however. “That kinda stuff is water off my duck’s back,” he says dismissively. “It’s the goddamn New Yorkers–that’s the problem.”
Aramaio is referring not to out-of-state visitors but rather discarded copies of The New Yorker, the American magazine known for its wry cartoons and interminable non-fiction articles. “Lotta people, they save their copies thinkin’ sooner or later they’re gonna get around to some thoughtful article on cereal grains of the world,” Aramaio says, shaking his head dubiously at the memory of a four-part series by Ian Frazier on the subject that achieved iconic status. “Come year-end, they give up and move on to the next upscale ad-filled issue in January.”
The problem, according to analyst Mark Rogerson of Capstone Partners, a private equity firm that has written off millions of dollars in print media investments in the last decade, is one of repetition. “Your average reader of The New Yorker flips through the cartoons looking for a laugh, or hiding his embarrassment when he doesn’t ‘get’ them,” Rogerson says. “When he gets to the crackpot Seymour Hersh expose he knows there’ll be another one in next week’s issue, so why bother?”
New Yorker editor David Remnick defended the publication’s history of lengthy “thumbsuckers” as they are known in the trade. “Look at Joseph Mitchell,” he said, referring to the New Yorker writer who wrote an extended series of articles about a homeless man named Joe Gould, who duped him into believing he was writing a book eleven times as long as the Bible. “If you write long boring articles about a long boring non-existent book, that’s more pages to sell to advertisers.”