Toys today just aren't what they used to be. in the marketplace and in the home, interactive playthings — "pet" dogs, robobabies and high-tech games — are growing in range and popularity. Since the digital age took hold in Toyland way back around 1997, old-fashioned dolls, toy soldiers and wooden horses are being left on the shelf, literally, prompting some traditional toy companies to adopt new competitive strategies — and order a few microchips.
It wasn't like that when Jennie James, who wrote this week's cover story on the trend, was a child. A good toy, she believes, is "something you can chuck around without being afraid that you'll break it." When James was growing up in Australia, "my absolute favorite was — and still is — Panda," she says. "My stuffed Panda is still sitting in my bedroom in my parents' house in Melbourne," though he has lost his eyes now and is "a bit the worse for wear."
While James also played the popular board game Monopoly with her family, she acknowledges that she wasn't a precocious minimogul who cornered the coveted sites on the board and piled up wads of play money. Her commercial interests eventually led her in a different direction. After graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1988 with an arts degree, she went into business journalism — after an initial detour through the fashion district.
James' first job in publishing was in Sydney, as an assistant at Vogue magazine. She spent three years in the fashion and beauty department before moving on to Vogue Entertaining, a food, wine and travel title. From there, her interest in the good life brought her to London, then to New York City and a master's degree at Columbia University. A stint at the European Wall Street Journal followed, and in October 1999 James joined TIME in London.
Since then she has written on a variety of business and financial topics, including technology, money and football, the fragrance industry and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. "The best thing about journalism," James says, "is the variety. It offers the chance to speak to all kinds of people on subjects about which they are clever and analytical and passionate." Including — judging from her just-in-holiday-time story this week — parents and children. The other nice thing about a story like this is that it allowed James to accumulate a trove of cute little cyber-thingies. That makes up for not having Panda around.
, Editor, TIME Atlantic