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17 February 2013

Do you ever wonder how people featured in NYT articles are so prosperous? [More:]I dunno, I just can't see how these people featured in Times lifestyle articles live so well. Take one couple featured in this article ... Nicole Miziolek and Patrick McNeil ... She's an acupuncturist and he's a STREET ARTIST. How in the world do they live in such magazine-ready good taste? I know that many adults are actually helped along by wealthy parents or inheritances, but it can't be super-common, can it?

I just feel like there's some secret to living well while being completely cool and hip that I missed out on.
The New York Times would never profile anyone under the top 5% of income/wealth, so they had to look especially hard to find people who qualified for that article. I'd guess family, patronage (for the 'street' artist) or a secret past life working on Wall Street.

The NYT Lifestyle section is exclusively for people who fit their desired readership demographic... which today is about the same as the Wall Street Journal.
posted by oneswellfoop 17 February | 14:54
"How in the world do they live in such magazine-ready good taste?"

Are you making that judgment from the few pictures accompanying the article? In addition to osf's astute observation, you may also want to consider:

a) a skilled photographer,
b) Photoshop,
c) a recent visit by a professional cleaning service, and
d) set dressing.

Those pictures all have a severely limited focus. We can only guess what the unseen portions of those homes look like.
posted by Ardiril 17 February | 15:17
IT's a combination of factors. Oneswellfoop is right that NYT feature/lifestyle writers write for their specific readership demographic (and aspirational demographic). The other factor is that reporters interview people they know, and people who they know know, to find their targets for generic lifestyle stories. That translates to the fact that they went to college together, lived in a neighborhood together, took a class together, etc. So they tend to replicate the reporters' own demographic.

As far as their careers; yes, when someone's in a career path I know to be low-paying but has an affluent lifestyle that one can securely estimate costs more than they earn, there are a handful of possibilities.

1. Family money - could be trust, gift, inheritance.
2. Cashed out of past employment/investment/business.
3. Worked ass off and accumulated savings in younger years so as to live debt-free with savings now.
4. Hidden source of income, like big eBay sales income or occasional paying gig.\
5. Legal settlement.
posted by Miko 17 February | 16:54
These people are not real.

Put the glasses on.
posted by Eideteker 17 February | 17:16
Seriously, a "They Live" reference? Man, you just made my week.
posted by Twiggy 17 February | 19:43
Having moved out of Brooklyn and into a Brooklyn-ish neighborhood in the southern end of Minneapolis, I can totally see how one could be seen as "totally" affluent but not be so rich. For example, we just spent a crap-ton of money buying more furniture (IKEA and Pier 1) to fit into our larger apartment (2 br, 2 bath instead of 1.5 br, 1 bath) but that allowable only because my husband cashed out his former IRA and we were given a relocation advance out of his forthcoming salary. AND, he still has his student loans to pay off, and we just signed up for a 4 year auto loan as well.
posted by TrishaLynn 17 February | 23:23
People always ask me, "Yo Hugh, how do you live so large, you don't even have a day job?" and I never tell them that I'm the biggest cocaine distributor on the East Coast.
posted by Hugh Janus 18 February | 00:05
See, hidden source of income!
posted by Miko 18 February | 00:23
I think part of it is the reporters setting out to make them look ridiculous. The story idea comes first, then they find people to squeeze into the roles they want to portray. Remember the Metafilter article? " OMG look at these nerdy Internet folks, they have lives?!?!" It's not fiction but there's an element of creative presentation at work.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 18 February | 06:59
The answer is the same for those who wonder why all the people on facebook are living such fabulous lives.
posted by Obscure Reference 18 February | 07:25
There's also debt. I hear debt's popular.
posted by JanetLand 18 February | 08:34
posted by Thorzdad 18 February | 09:11
On an individual level, they're as real as anybody else. But I'd like to know where and how their cleaning lady lives, or their doorman.
posted by theora55 18 February | 10:00
It's true that they do frame out the "trend" pieces before they report them, as TPS says. But they also have to find real people to verify the trend, so personal networks come into play a lot.
posted by Miko 18 February | 10:13
Interesting answers. I am fascinated by the possibility that there's a lot of unspoken privilege in play here ... that what is presented as just a life that casually fell into place serendipitously, is actually more complex.
posted by jayder 18 February | 10:29
I've known people who've been in Style articles. They are very very much hammered into the mold of what a Style article is. Plus, yeah it's the people the reporter would've heard of in their own circles.
posted by The Whelk 18 February | 10:37
I know that many adults are actually helped along by wealthy parents or inheritances, but it can't be super-common, can it?

They're over-represented in New York.

I just feel like there's some secret to living well while being completely cool and hip that I missed out on.

It's the same secret involved in becoming an Olympic athlete: choose your parents wisely.
posted by jason's_planet 18 February | 11:42
It's accepted wisdom in the profession of lifestyle journalism that readers interests are aspirational.
They don't want to read about how their class peers live.
posted by jouke 18 February | 11:48
Another trick is to conveniently leave out of your self-description the thing that you actually do unglamourously for money.

If you asked one member of my circle what she and her husband do, you would hear "I direct plays and he is a musician." which is true, it's just not the whole story. Ask again as "how do you get most of your money?" you will get "I work in it at a law firm and he teaches private school."

So it is also about self-definition and choosing the definition that works best for the article.

That graffiti artist might be working at a fancy ad agency,
posted by rmless2 18 February | 12:20
You are being sold an aspirational lifestyle.
posted by Eideteker 18 February | 13:18
I like the "these people are not real" theory.
posted by jayder 18 February | 13:31
Lifestyle journalism is a likely origin of creative non-fiction.
posted by Ardiril 18 February | 13:35
The book "The Underminer: The Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life" is a quite on-target humorous look at this class of people whose lives seem effortless, brilliant, and creative. It is written from the perspective of someone who managed to go to a good liberal arts college but whose earnest efforts are continually, subtly put down by the unnamed "Underminer," who holds those efforts up for comparison with those of the effortlessly cool people in their circle, subjecting the narrator to a life of humiliation and ruin.
posted by jayder 18 February | 13:38
Back in the day, I used to read magazines like Utne Reader. I started noticing a similar sort of thing in their "lifestyle" pieces on all of these seemingly cool, hip young people who were living their lives as artisinal cheese makers, potters, organic jam makers, etc. on little idyllic country farms. The stories always presented these couples as simple, laid-back neo-hippies just chilling in the upstate New York countryside. Universally, though, buried in every article was a throwaway sentence along the lines of "after leaving their high-pressure lives as Wall Street fund managers" or "the former investment lawyers" or other such indications that the barn on their idyllic country farm was probably stacked to the rafters with bundles of 100's.

I suspect there's a lot of that going on here with these youngsters, only on their parents' part.
posted by Thorzdad 18 February | 16:19
I guess I'm missing the point of the article. Then again; I had to stop reading after I got to "and importing the trappings of a twee lifestyle like bearded mixologists, locavore restaurants and antler-laden boutiques."

Are those real words? Really?
posted by Doohickie 19 February | 00:59
"Are those real words? Really?"

I agree. It's verging on parody.
posted by jayder 19 February | 12:39
I admit these paragraphs gave me big lulz. Then I thought "wanker".

With an increase both in density and in the atmosphere of busy professionalism, Brooklyn no longer feels as carefree as it did, said Ari Wallach, a futurism consultant, who recently cut short a Brooklyn real estate search.

“There is more looking down, less eye contact,” said Mr. Wallach, 38. “The difference is between the first three days of Burning Man, when everyone is ‘Hey, what’s up?’ to the final three days of Burning Man, when the tent flaps are down. Brooklyn is turning out to be the last three days of Burning Man.”
posted by Senyar 19 February | 13:06
DIA bunnies attacking Cars || Are you kidding me?