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EDITORIALS: THE SATURDAY PAGE

Hipster philanthropy

September 23, 2006

EARNEST MIGHT NOT YET be the new ironic, but, at least in certain quarters, it's giving it a run for its money -- quite literally. The new, generously endowed magazine Good, which launched earlier this month, bills itself as "a free press for the critical idealist." Its founder is 26-year-old Ben Goldhirsh, an Andover Academy/Brown University graduate, unapologetic idealist and a perennial wearer of jeans and Rockport hiking boots. The staff, which works primarily out of a bungalow in West Hollywood, includes a notable number of Brown alumni as well as 23-year-old recent Harvard grad Al Gore III, who serves as associate publisher.

Residing somewhere between the earthy sincerity of Mother Jones and the no-nonsense aridity of the Economist (Goldhirsh told the New York Times that the Economist was the one magazine he reads, "but it's almost like an assignment"), Good may be Generation Y's attempt to cut through the fabled cynicism of its Gen X predecessors. As described in an article in West magazine, Good offers "a hipster take on the world of energy, organic food, sweatshop-free fashion, politics, indie culture, do-gooder business and green living." No Nicole Richie updates here.

Goldhirsh is the son of the late Bernie Goldhirsh, who founded Inc. magazine, which he later sold for a reported $200 million. Good's subscription fees -- $20 for six issues -- go to a list of Good-approved charities of the readers' choosing. The World Wildlife Fund, Teach for America and the progressive-minded venture capitalist firm Ashoka are among those on the lineup. As of Friday, Good's website reported nearly $120,000 raised from close to 6,000 subscriptions. Meanwhile, the staff and contributors need not worry about their paychecks. Goldhirsh already has put $2.5 million of his own money into the enterprise and plans to invest $10 million more over the next five years.

Whether Good will last five years -- or even one year -- is anyone's guess. But what ultimately may be most telling about this undertaking is the way 1960s activism and post-Letterman, post-grunge slackerdom are forming a hybrid culture. The message: Give back. As for the medium, it carries the advantage of having some very deep pockets -- even if they're in an old pair of jeans.

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