August 10, 2014

The former MTV VJ Kennedy is indirectly responsible for this week’s New York Times Magazine cover, which depicts U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as the star of a hardcore punk show.


Times Magazine Editor Jake Silverstein “really wanted us to do a cover that conveyed the energy and spirit of the libertarian movement,” art director Gail Bichler told Poynter in a phone call.

Robert Draper quotes Kennedy at the beginning of his cover story: She compares Paul to Pearl Jam (and his father, Ron Paul, to Nirvana, and fellow Sen. Ted Cruz to Stone Temple Pilots). That got the art folks thinking: This piece needs a rock treatment.

They decided to “use that rock reference and twist it a little bit,” Bichler said. “Since it was a story about Washington politics, we wanted to appropriate the language of D.C. hardcore.”

Since Bichler has “very little experience” with that genre of music, she said, she did research online and looked at Bryan Ray Turcotte and Christopher T. Miller’s book “Fucked Up + Photocopied” for inspiration.

Two posters stood out: A Dead Boys one from the 1970s and a Fugazi flier from 1989. The former band was from Cleveland, but Fugazi are probably the most famous band to come out of D.C.’s punk scene, and the poster that caught Bichler’s eye was from a show they played in Rockford, Illinois (you can see buy a recording of the show here).

Photo courtesy Dischord

Photo courtesy Dischord

Bichler asked Matt Dorfman, the art director for the Times op ed page, to work on the cover. “I kind of thought he might have a typewriter at home, which he actually did!” Bichler said. The brief was to make this look analog, not Photoshopped.

Dorfman “used a copier to get the textures, and I think he really paid a lot of attention to the details, adding scuff marks and tape marks,” she said.

Silverstein contributed the “All Ages” language in the corner, which is a nice touch. (D.C. hardcore bands strove to play venues that allowed underaged patrons, which is why a lot of shows took place in venues that weren’t nightclubs.)

“There’s been a little bit of pushback on Twitter about applying this language to libertarians,” Bichler said, but mostly the reaction has been positive.

Dorman was surprised the cover got through the higher ups, Bichler said. (She told Ally Schweitzer at WAMU that inserting an anarchy symbol in the magazine’s masthead had to go up the chain.)

“It’s definitely something very different for the Times,” she said, and Silverstein, who she said really liked the cover, “seems very up for wanting to do some things that are different.”

(This article was originally posted on Poynter’s Tumblr on Friday, Aug. 8, due to a server migration.)

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
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