Susan Sontag “took it as a given that our duty as sentient beings is to rescue the world,” wrote Gary Indiana in a 2004 obituary for the remarkable critic. To live in New York, it’s helpful to understand the city’s snarky rigor, which has fueled its gossip columnists for decades, but it’s more helpful to grasp the empathy that underscores its intellectual vibrancy, as typified by writers like Sontag and Indiana. When we detach from the world, all we’re left with is civilization.
Civilization is also the name of a broadsheet published by Richard Turley and Lucas Mascatello, who met while working for MTV in the mid-2010s. Three issues in, it has a distinct voice, at once mordant and volatile. Single pages pulse with an onrush of stories and voices, which represents good value for money, and a meticulous digest of the information typhoons that structure contemporary thought. Issues feature people you’ll have actually met if you’ve spent time in New York (although not all contributors are named) alongside good-looking charts and likably small-scale images. Civilization shows that influencers are in fact vulnerable people, which is a first step back to the world.
HARRY BURKE Your title, Civilization, is provocative. Why did you choose it?
CIVILIZATION Is it? I didn’t think so. I guess that’s good, though? When it came to us right after we’d started on the first issue, it immediately clicked. By sounding kind of highbrow, it gives us a bit of freedom to subvert that status—that high/low garbage.
HB In a moment when everyone’s valorizing images of each other on tablets and phones, why did it make sense to start a newspaper-format, text-heavy publication?
C Newspapers are nice because they’re cheap, which means they’re easy to produce and sell. Having all of the content in print is a real strength for us, because it allows people to be a bit more honest; if it’s not online, most people won’t see it. That kind of anonymity has weirdly oscillated between mediums: there was a time when putting things in print made them permanent, but now it’s about avoiding the search engine, and staying offline and out of the digital archive. We’re both pretty allergic to social media. Keeping the focus on an object and its contents keeps the project from being a marketing or branding exercise.