Resolved: There Is Only One Way to Portray Office Life

Let’s say you’re a magazine editor and you need to illustrate a special issue about office life: What do you do for art? If you’re the editor of Businessweek and you’re compiling a special Business @ Work issue in collaboration with readers (a first, according to the magazine’s Web site), you just do what New York did in April 2007 with its “Office Life” package and slap Rainn Wilson of NBC’s The Office on the cover and in a spread inside. Oh, and you might as well get photographer Chris Buck to shoot him, like New York did.

To justify that cover placement, do a short interview with Mr. Wilson about his worst jobs ever. Here’s New York‘s take (“Working for crooked insurance brokers in midtown. They made me lie all the time. I’d call up the head of a company—say, Henry Kissinger, from Kissinger Associates—and say, ‘Hi, is Mr. Kissinger there? We spoke six months ago and he asked me call him back; it was about insurance for the company.'”); here’s Businessweek‘s (“I worked at an insurance broker in New York. They gave me ‘lead cards’ that had the name of the person in charge. Like: ‘Kissinger Associates. Contact: Henry Kissinger.’ And the phone number”).

In Businessweek‘s defense, New York is hardly the first magazine to use an Office ensemble member to illustrate an otherwise dry story. In September 2006, Cat Fancy trumpeted its “Exclusive Interview” with Angela Kinsey about her cats Lucy and Otter. In March 2007, Wired did a semi-nude peekaboo cover with Jenna Fischer to illustrate a story on “Radical Transparency.”

The same magazine’s May 2008 issue featuring Steve Carell doesn’t count since the versatile Mr. Carell wasn’t portraying the dim-witted Michael Scott of The Office fame, but rather the dim-witted Maxwell Smart of Get Smart.