Condé Nast, Fiji Water, and the Age of Consumption

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The same day that we put up our exposé of Fiji Water—produced under a military dictatorship, processed in a diesel-fueled plant, and shipped across thousands of miles of ocean in bottles that use twice as much plastic as many competitorsthe New York Observer‘s John Koblin served up a fab look into the Condé Nast empire, where folks are running scared that the consultants from McKinsey are going to put an end to their gilded way of life (Nobu, town cars, spa treatments–all on the company dime.) 

How bad is it at 4 Times Square? Not only has Graydon Carter been, gasp!, spotted in the (Frank Gehry designed) company cafeteria but:

“When I started, there was this little refrigerator, and it was stocked with amazing drinks,” said one ad-sales source. “Pellegrino, Orangina, Red Bull. And like the water wasn’t Poland Spring, it was like Fiji. I remember when I started working here, I emailed everyone I know and I was like, ‘I have to tell you about the drinks!’”

But then in December, a few months after Condé Nast ordered publishers and editors to cut 5 percent from their budgets, the drink supply emptied out. That Fiji water turned into Poland Spring. Worse, instead of the fridge, the water bottles were stowed in a warm closet.

And then: “I just found out today that we are on our last batch of Poland Spring,” said the source. “We won’t have any more after this. We have to start drinking tap water.”

The horror, the horror!

Substantive cuts (when and if they come) to the actual great journalism that Condé Nast, particularly the New Yorker, can produce would be no joke. But Jeez, if the company hadn’t encouraged editors to act as if ridiculous, over-the-top consumption on every level wasn’t just a matter of course, but de riguer, not only for themselves, but the rest of us, then maybe we all wouldn’t find ourselves underwater at every turn. Just saying.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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