Here's a discussion of the line... [in the] book "Hot Stuff: Disco and The Remaking of American Culture"... "Presumably [the Bee Gees] were trying to fit in a reference to the city and convey something about upward mobility. But these are such inelegant, head-shaking lines that for years critic Dave Marsh, eager for more class-conscious lyrics, misheard them as 'We can try to understand / The New York Times don't make a man.'"But is the word "magazine" hard to work with? Magazine is kind of a great set of syllables. And magazines stir up so many aspirations and desires. Why wouldn't you write a song with the word "magazine"?
The author of the book observes that the movies shows the NYT delivered each morning to the female character. I would add — based on decades-old memory of ["Saturday Night Fever"] — that the NYT represented the NYC that the characters — who lived in seedy 70s Brooklyn — dreamed of reaching some day and the characters do make it to Manhattan in the end.
The movie was based on a New York Magazine article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night." Maybe the NYT is mentioned in the song because "Times" scans better than "Magazine."
2 songs that had popped into my head were not on the list: "Bennie and the Jets" ("She's got electric boots a mohair suit/You know I read it in a magazine"). And "Darling Nikki" — the song that upset Tipper Gore — rhymes "magazine" with "a sex fiend":
Then I found this Guardian article that for no apparent reason had already fixated on the topic and put together a playlist of 55 songs.
It has one song that should have popped into my head, one of my all time favorite songs, "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone":
You're reading all those high fashion magazines/The clothes you're wearin' girl are causing public scenes...
I love the contrast between the "public scenes" in those 2 videos.