Inside the Times: “I hope this package brings readers joy, or at least some relief.”

From an Inside the Times story by Anya Strzemien headlined “Something to Smile About: The simple act of asking colleagues to write about joy was a joy itself”:

As one of the deputy editors of the Styles section, it’s part of my job to scheme and create special projects like I Quit, The Office and This Gen X Mess. As I started to plan for 2020, I wondered how we could most surprise New York Times readers. This was back in January, when things felt so difficult — we were maybe going to war with Iran, Australia was burning, a mysterious virus was starting to spread around the world and a Senate impeachment trial was underway. It all felt so joyless, so why not create the ultimate counterprogramming: joy! . . .

“The Joy of [blank]” framework took shape when Sarah Miller, a freelance writer, and I were emailing about what a terrible time this was. I told her I wanted to do a package on joy, and she said she had just the thing: the joy of the hate-watch. She felt she’d been saving “Mrs. Doubtfire” for this very moment. (She later pivoted to “The Princess Bride” and she indeed loved to hate it.)

Around the same time, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, and I were emailing about what a terrible time this was. (Who could talk about anything else?) We agreed that one small silver lining was having our calendars suddenly cleared, with zero social obligations on the horizon. “The Joy of Having Plans Cancel Themselves” followed.

I then asked Alexandra Jacobs, my fellow deputy editor on Styles, whose writing brings me joy, to contribute. She turned in a piece on jogging slowly, which was bringing her joy.

Then I kept reaching out to writers I love — Jenna Wortham, Allison P. Davis, Aminatou Sow, Caity Weaver, Max Read, Heather Havrilesky, Lesley M.M. Blume, Ross Gay, Alex Williams, Jane Huand Brian Keith Jackson — asking them what, if anything, was bringing them joy right now. Most of them were in. After all, what else were we all doing? Our plans had canceled themselves. . . .

As for the abbreviations on the landing page, “the joy of” structure made me think of abbreviations like FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out) and JOMO (The Joy of Missing Out). I thought making increasingly over-the-top abbreviations (like J.O.C.A.O.N.O.C.B.N.) reflected our increasingly bewildered emotional states in isolation. The abbreviations made us laugh — but hopefully not just us.

In the end, I hope this package — and its special print section on May 24 — brings readers joy, or at least some relief. May you all find some, wherever you are right now.

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