JUST SAY OM: In the September issue, Esquire offers a lengthy feature on meditation, “A Useful Guide to Chilling the [Expletive] Out.” And in its September issue, GQ has a snazzy new service piece of its own, “The Totally Stressed-out Man’s Guide to Meditation.”
It’s unusual two rival magazines would publish stories on the same subject in the same month, though it’s been known to happen. Last year, both sent award-winning correspondents to Zanesville, Ohio to look into an animal massacre that generated national headlines. GQ won that round — its piece picked up a National Magazine Award. But how did the two magazines stumble onto the same service trend piece in the same month? Was meditation that much at the forefront of the national conversation to merit one, let alone two, full-fledged stories about it?
This story first appeared in the August 26, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Despite offering little evidence to support this, both magazines found that to be the case. Meditation is in fact hip now — “having something of a moment,” according to GQ — and not only that — you, the manly man’s magazine reader, can indulge.
“Everyone is so damn mindful these days. Doing yoga and meditation,” Esquire reports. And, reassuringly, “You don’t have to go to an ashram or join a cult or anything like that.” “Transcendental meditation isn’t just for hippies anymore,” GQ points out. “Now that Rupert Murdoch has signed on, it’s clearly entered the mainstream.” Clearly.
On the surface, these two look like the same story. Esquire’s love letter is loaded with listicles, cute graphics and short essays — writer at large Scott Raab is skeptical to try out this hippy-dippy routine but is ultimately persuaded. GQ takes the essay approach, setting loose contributor Josh Dean to answer the vital question, “Should you cross your legs, close your eyes and join in?” A handy graphic charts the evolution of celebrity disciples over the years. GQ readers will be comforted to find both Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres are among them.
The assigning editors explained their guides are completely different, and that meditation is such a multifaceted topic there’s room for two magazines to do deep, Zen dives into the topic.
“Esquire’s piece was more general. Here’s why meditation is good for you and here’s how to do it,” said GQ senior editor Mike Benoist. “What was curious to me is when you see people from the business world adopting something in mass.” The story came about after he heard about a year ago Ray Dalio, the hedge fund billionaire, was an adherent. “I think meditation, its emergence as a business tool, is sort of new or a different idea,” Benoist said.
Ryan D’Agostino, Esquire articles editor, said this trend piece came about like so many others, through friends.
“Basically, we started hearing from random sources people are doing meditation. One of the editors here, his doctor was telling him the thing he prescribes most is meditation,” he said. “All at once we started hearing about people recommending meditation.”
Even if it seems this particular trend is a phenomenon only among a class of people that includes celebrities and multimillionaires, bringing it to readers’ attention is what magazines do, they agreed.
“It’s kind of a trend story,” Benoist said. “Both our magazines are also in the business of saying, ‘Here’s something worth considering.’”
D’Agostino said the net effect is a positive one for readers.
“We did this piece because we really believe meditation is a good thing. If there’s two magazine pieces about it, all the better. It might convince more men to give it a shot,” he said.
For him, the coincidence underscores the role men’s magazines play in popular culture, even if they sometimes carry the same story.
“If we’re both doing our jobs we’re gonna tap into the things men are interested in. Hopefully, that’s the goal,” he said.
Well, at least there’s more variety in the fashion spreads. “Fear Not the Plaid,” Esquire pleads in one story. And did you know, according to GQ, “a sharply tailored plaid suit can put you at the top of the food chain.”