Time for a Refresh on the Publishing World

| 21 Jul 2022 | 09:44

“Vinyl” has officially replaced “Runway.”

As a superfan of the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” which the minute it came out eclipsed the print version, even I have to admit that as glossy and fun as it is, the iconic film’s depiction of magazine life is now officially dated.

Although the story of the up-and-comer versus the old guard is a time-honored tale, the fact is, the working world has changed in general — publishing in particular — since 2007 and it is definitely time for a refresh.

Enter “A Hundred Other Girls” by Iman Hariri-Kia.

The award-winning industry veteran and debut novelist definitely entertains with her story of the print vs. online wars and the young upstart caught in between, but it also enlightens by reflecting on current conundrums: clickbait, content mills, cancel culture and learning the difference between tokenism and true representation. Speaking of which, the book’s characters are as diverse as New York City, offering a mix of races, genders, sexualities, abilities, cultures and classes. In other words, you will find yourself somewhere in this novel.

Like Noora, who clinched the position as the exec assistant to “Vinyl” editor in chief Loretta, I began my career on the bottom rung, and even though the red flags were waving from day one, when you’re trying to get your foot in the door, you take the job.

Just as is the main character, I was reprimanded for the sake of reprimand, had unreasonable give-up-your-life-for-this-chance demands made upon me, and of course had my job threatened every 10 minutes. This last point is a nod to the book’s title. “There are 100 other girls out there...” is often told to newbies to demoralize, show how lucky one is, but mostly to let those in entry level positions feel a dime-a-dozen, AKA replaceable.

Side Hustles

What a surprise that post-pandemic, novice workers don’t want to return to offices and that Gen Z-ers have side hustles to create passive income; it gives them the ability to walk away when they get tired of being a cog in the hamster wheel.

Also, just like Noora, I learned the hard way that when you’re in an environment where everybody is indulging in one-upmanship, brinkmanship and good old fashion backstabbing, unfortunately it’s difficult to not become what you behold.

But because, “In this city your true self can always be more authentic,” those of us who care about living our truth find a way to extricate ourselves. For me, it was becoming a stay-at-home-mother and freelancer. Noora has a harder decision.

Will she accept a new position at “Vinyl,” her dream job, for which a requirement is to wear a hijab — something this born and raised New Yorker of Middle Eastern descent does not normally do — as a symbol of the publication’s commitment to diversity?

Job Challenges

Hariri-Kia also portrays realistically what happens when maturing professionals such as Loretta refuse to change with the times. (Hint: pretending the Internet is a passing fancy will serve no one.)

When Loretta, who’d been with “Vinyl” Print since its inception, is asked to head up the Digital side, she thinks long and hard about whether she wants to be promoted beyond her level of competence. Been there.

For a while I had a dual career: my first, as a copywriter along with my second act as a journalist/essayist. I decided to pick a lane when a marketing column announced that companies were doing ad campaigns via Snapchat. At the time, I did not use Snapchat nor did I understand why anyone did, and I had no interest in finding out. Goodbye advertising, we had some good times.

Unlike its “Prada” predecessor, which wrapped up nicely in a bow with Miranda limo-ing through life biz-as-usual and Andy heading to a less glam environment to write her earnest newspaper stories, “A Hundred Other Girls” has the characters wrestling with real world job challenges and some mulling the question many today are asking, “What now?”

Will we find an answer? Of course. Ours is the city of reinvention and opportunity. We’re resourceful, tough, and determined. And because as Noora says: “New Yorkers are @#$%ing crazy.”

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the new novel “The Last Single Woman in New York City.”