Slate magazine columnist Ron Rosenbaum recently ripped into an Esquire cover profile of Angelina Jolie, calling it the "worst celebrity profile ever written." Rosenbaum devoted 2,300-words to thrashing its author, Tom Junod, without actually naming him, it should be noted, directly. ("Sure, it uses the death of thousands on 9/11 as a rationale for running a picture of a half-naked Angelina Jolie. But look, if we can’t exploit 9/11 when we need to add a little gravitas to that silver sheet between Angelina’s thighs, the terrorists win, right?").
Rosenbaum has now written the epilogue-ripping into GQ for killing a Hillary Clinton profile after the Clinton camp threatened to revoke access to Bill-arguing that magazines have abandoned a practice that could save the celebrity profile: the writearound. Rosenbaum suggests that the write-around-a "story done about a person without that person’s cooperation, and thus, in contemporary terms, without the usual perks one gets in exchange for the fawning profile"-is looked at as a cop-out.
One magazine editor who clearly doesn’t see it as a cop-out: Adam Moss. New York magazine has made it a habit of running at least one investigative write-around per issue, usually more.
Check the recent "Bill Clinton, First Lady," cover story by Jennifer Senior focused on "how a Clinton II White House might work." Operative word there: might. The piece sources former Clinton administration officials and current staffers, public speeches and appearances on Oprah. Speculative, investigative and totally engaging, moreso than the usual "fawning" that comes along with access. Another recent issue included a piece by Will Leitch about Alex Rodriguez’s future in New York. The Yankees declined to talk to New York, as did Scott Boras, Rodriguez’s agent. But New York ran the piece anyway, and-given the Yankees’ early exit from the American League playoffs-is as timely a "profile" as any. Another, "Watching Matt Drudge" about the famously reclusive Drudgereport.com founder by Phillip Weiss, stirred the blog-o-dome like a chainsaw.