More than a year after Hugo Lindgren took over as editor in chief, The New York Times Magazine is still evolving. Last month it debuted a new column: “They’re Famous! (On the Internet),” by Gaby Dunn, a 23-year-old stand up comedian who has written for Thought Catalog and GOOD.
Unlike the short-lived “Last Month on the Internet” column, a sort of collage of found Internet gems, “They’re Famous!” takes Internet personae for its subject matter but otherwise sticks to the conventions of traditional journalism.
As far as Internet correspondents go, Ms. Dunn is practically embedded.
In October, an American Express business blog published an article called “How Gaby Dunn Self-Promoted Her Way to Internet Fame.”
Short answer? By writing a quality blog and having a funny Twitter.
Post-journalism school, flitting between the media gulags and stints on her brother’s couch, Ms. Dunn started a Tumblr called 100 Interviews. It had the self-imposed rules that she must interview 100 different kinds of people in person over the course of one year. Her subjects included a child prodigy, a present or former Guinness Book of World Records record holder, someone who was left at the alter and Stephen Colbert. Number 100, appropriately, was an Internet celebrity.
Some people noticed the blog, including The Village Voice, which named it the Tumblr of 2010, and Times Magazine culture editor Adam Sternbergh.
He wrote to say he was a reader, and Ms. Dunn remembered thinking, “What? Why? You’re a real person, though. You’re a real guy. What are you doing? You have much better things to do.”
“And he asked if I wanted to get a drink, and we talked, and he said, ‘I want you to write stuff for us’ and I was like, ‘O.K., wow, yes.’”
“They’re Famous!” will be edited by front-of-book editor Jon Kelly, she said.
In the first installment, Ms. Dunn profiled Mike O’Brien, host of a web talk show called “7 Minutes in Heaven.” His interviews with celebrities like Patricia Clarkson, Andy Samberg, Hoda Kotb and Elijah Wood take place in a closet and end with a kiss.
Ms. Dunn said that the biggest challenge so far is explaining the magnitude of her subject’s fame to people for whom YouTube hits do not unequivocally confer household name status.
“It’s an alternate universe,” Ms. Dunn said of the Internet. “There are people that are legitimately super famous.”
Like two of her favorite YouTubers: Charlie McDonell, a red-headed Brit who incites “Bieber-level” insanity, and Kingsley Russell, a skinny black college student who critiques pop culture while wearing a fur-lined hunter’s cap.
“His word is gold online,” Ms. Dunn said, “I don’t understand why he doesn’t have a TV show.”
It’s probably only a matter of time.