Over the weekend, The New York Times style section appeared to achieve peak New York Times style when it published an article about how New York hipsters are moving to Los Angeles. The piece was, at once, weird, patronizing, embarrassing, and sort of true. But it contained some glaring inaccuracies, not least of all this sentence:
For $600 less than the $1,850 a month [fashion stylist Christina] Turner was paying for her grim junior one-bedroom in Greenpoint, she found a charming two-bedroom 1920s bungalow in Echo Park with a gated yard, cactuses, a barbecue, a separate work studio and a garage.
What the what the what. $1,250 for a two-bedroom Echo Park bungalow with a work studio and a garage? Sometime after 1982?
Sure enough, the anecdote-let was too good to be true. On Monday, The Times corrected the piece (under-the-radar, of course) to clarify that Ms. Turner is sharing said bungalow and that's her part of the rent. Still a good deal, but not quite as good.
So that left us wondering, what else did The Times get wrong?
Claim: New Yorkers are really starting to move here.
Old, unfunny journalism joke: how does a reporter count to three? One, two, trend. It's classic style-section stuff to write about a trend that somehow feels true and then find three anecdotes that confirm it. And that's obviously what's going on here.
There are no statistics, that we could find, confirming whether New Yorkers are moving here in greater numbers. However, going by our favorite mode of statistical analysis, the U-Haul Index, in which you calculate the cost of one-way U-Haul rentals from one city to another and vice versa to measure demand, we find that it is $300 more expensive to rent a 10-foot truck from L.A. to New York than the other way around. This proves conclusively that more New Yorkers are moving to L.A. than Angelenos to N.Y.
But are New Yorkers moving here more than before? That seems doubtful. From Mickey Cohen to Jay-Z and Beyonce, New Yorkers have been moving here since Harry Chandler wore short pants.
Claim: New Yorkers don't hate Los Angeles anymore.
This part seems pretty much true, perhaps the strongest point in this whole weird article. In 1993,Time magazine asked, “Is the City of Angels Going to Hell?” No one's really saying that anymore, even though the state is running out of water, allegedly due to almonds, so I've read.
A whole slew of new TV shows — Transparent, You're the Worst, Togetherness — are set in Los Angeles, and while their characters are largely solipsistic and dysfunctional, the city itself is shown as diverse, tony and even idyllic at times.
L.A. used to be a punchline. Now it isn't. The question is why? Well The Times thinks it's because …
Claim: L.A. is becoming a hipster's paradise.
The Times argues that New Yorkers are moving to L.A. because it's cheaper, sunnier, and filled with just as many hipster accoutrements as Williamsburg: “the in-season Zambian coffee outposts, the galleries, the vintage clothing boutiques.”
Right, so if you Google “Los Angeles Zambian coffee,” the first three results are Intelligentsia, which offers Zambian coffee as one of its many overpriced “brews,” and the fourth result is The New York Times article. So I really have no idea what that's all about. (Did read this about the Zambian space program, though.)
There has, of course, been a long-standing bicoastal dialogue between Williamsburg and the tri-hipster area (formerly Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, now Silver Lake/Echo Park/Highland Park). The fixies, the beards, the flannels, the artisanal locally sourced organic whatever. Perhaps Williamsburg has stayed 10 minutes ahead in the nuclear trend race, but it's certainly nothing anyone would notice or care about.
It's possible that New Yorkers are finally getting around to realizing that you can get the same hipster shit here as you can in Williamsburg, but it's doubtful they're really that slow. Besides, many of the establishments cited by The Times, like Cafe Stella (referred to as Bar Stella) and Shephard Fairey's studio, Subliminal Projects, have been around for years.
NYT: “Downtown has become a trend factory.”
Claim: “Want to shoot a music video? Just put up a Facebook message and within hours you’ll have 15 responses from incredibly talented, passionate people who want to work for free, because they believe in you and your art.”
The Times uses this suspicious-sounding quote to illustrate its argument that Los Angeles is an inherently more collaborative city. That may be true in the sense that we're just nicer than New Yorkers are.
But all these people willing to work for free? Because they believe in your art? I want to meet this person's friends. Or at least see her art.