NY Times Goes 'Straight for Playboy's Readership' With a New 'Sin and Vice' Reporter

Matthew Kassel at the New York Observer reports that The New York Times has created an innovative new beat for a reporter named Mosi Secret: sin and vice.

“I always thought that one of the more compelling things you could ever cover in New York was sin,” city editor Dean Chang told the Observer. So Secret wrote a long story for the front of last Sunday’s Metro section on an underground strip club/brothel titled “A Strip Club in Manhattan Proves That Vice Is Hard to Kill.”

Vice is certainly "hard to kill" when Mr. Secret and the Times acquires this story by promising not to reveal the brothel's location or name anyone. This is the kind of "sin and vice" the Times finds exciting. This brothel claims to be the "one percent" where the women aren't beaten or screamed at, where they can be independent sex workers.

Did we mention this long brothel story ran on Sunday?

"I always thought that one of the more compelling things you could ever cover in New York was sin,” Mr. Chang told the Observer. Mr. Chang worked for 17 years as a reporter and editor at the Daily News before moving to the Times in 2008. “You could have a franchise on sin working there,” Mr. Chang said of the News. “At the Times, it’s sort of different.”

The hard part for Chang is is figuring out how to direct coverage of sin without encroaching on other reporters at the paper. “Murder is a sin but it’s also a crime,” Mr. Chang said, “so it’s likely that that would be covered by our other beat reporters.”

Chang said he didn’t come up with the beat to provoke. “This is not an excuse to suddenly run titillating stories in the New York Times,” Mr. Chang explained. The idea, he said, was “to cover things, places, issues that wouldn’t naturally have a voice in the metro section.”

Naturally, who doesn’t “have a voice” in a sin-and-vice article? Ministers and other uptight moralists. In the Times, you’re much more likely to have atheist critics in a religion story than religious critics in a prostitution story.

“This is probably the most fun I’ve had at the Times,” Mr. Secret told the Observer. He gets to observe the prostitute that tells clients she’s a mermaid. “I only grow limbs in the nighttime,” she said. “And I enjoy what being a woman below the torso offers, because I don’t take it for granted as much.”

The Observer asked:

Did Mr. Chang view the new coverage as a way to move in on the territory of magazines like Vice, which offers in-depth, alternative and often, yes, titillating examinations of society’s darker underbelly?

“No,” Mr. Chang said, “we’re going straight for Playboy’s readership.”

That would be the Playboy subscribers who buy it for the articles.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis