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Newsonomics: What was once unthinkable is quickly becoming reality in the destruction of local news
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Oct. 11, 2016, 11:12 a.m.
LINK: www.esquire.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   October 11, 2016

Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, the satirical magazine Spy took on Donald Trump as one of its prime targets. Founded by Graydon Carter (now editor of Vanity Fair) and Kurt Andersen (now of novels and Studio 360), the magazine famously called Trump a “short-fingered Vulgarian” and highlighted Trump’s business failings and his eccentric personality.

Spy folded in 1998, but as Trump enters the homestretch of his presidential campaign, Esquire announced Tuesday that it was launching an online popup version of Spy that will run through the election next month.

Esquire special projects editor Josh Wolk is leading a four-person staff running the site, The Wall Street Journal reported. It hopes to publish up to five stories each day through the Nov. 8 election. “We’re pleased to do a quick sprint,” David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, told the Journal. “You never know where something like this may lead.”

In an introductory post, Andersen wrote that he resisted previous calls to revive Spy because he “couldn’t quite see a place for it in such a cluttered media landscape already so thick with so much satirical intent.” This election cycle, however, changed his view:

Then came the last year: the withdrawal of Stewart and Colbert from Comedy Central, the death of Gawker, the return of Hillary, and especially the rise of Donald Trump. SPY pioneered the exposure and ridicule of Trump back in its day, of course, always referring to him as “short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump”— and in this campaign, astonishingly, that epithet (and the general tiny-hand critique) resurfaced in a big way. As Trump became the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, lots more people, pretty much every day, said to me, “SPY really needs to be rebooted, if only just for the election.”

So far, Esquire’s Spy has brought back Separated at Birth, a longtime Spy feature that compared celebrities who look alike. It’s also published stories such as “Is Donald Trump the World’s Greatest Pickup Artist?” and “TV Writers Know How to Make Hillary More Likable.” It’s also, predictably, published an investigation into whether Trump’s small fingers are the result of a genetic abnormality.

While Spy’s comeback is sparking nostalgia for the ’80s and ’90s, it’s also the latest example of publishers launching short-term editorial projects. New York magazine, for example, has launched popup blogs on everything from internet culture to men’s style. In March, Slate launched Trumpcast, a popup podcast on all things Trump. And after Brexit last summer, the publisher Archant launched The New European, a popup newspaper targeting Britons who voted to remain in the European Union.

As media continues to become more segmented and as publishers are looking for more ways to reach readers and satisfy advertisers, expect to see outlets continue to introduce new offerings to take advantage of news cycles and other ephemeral phenomena.

The full archives of Spy’s first run are free for your perusal on Google Books, including no shortage of Hillary content.

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