Thursday, March 31, 2005

MEDIA: Magazine Maelstrom

Before we commence, don't forget to enter my super-nifty Jay's Days Giveaway contest -- see details below. April 15 is the deadline!

We now return to the regularly scheduled post. Man, do we subscribe to a lot of magazines. This was brought home to me during the wife's recent month-long vacation, when I saved all the magazines for her to read. The stack was almost a foot tall. I'm a magazine nut -- actually majored in journalism with an emphasis on the field, but after an internship in college somehow ended up in newspapers instead. We need to winnow the subscription field a little, but there are admittedly some pretty good ones we get --

Entertainment Weekly The magazine gold standard for me, the one I look forward to the most every week. Smart, sassy and well-written most of the time, with a good deal of variety in its entertainment content. It's mainstream, sure, but very good mainstream coverage. I've actually been a subscriber since the very first issue in 1990 with the exception of a year or two in college when I was too broke to renew. And they haven't even given me a gold watch.

Time I took up Time again to follow along with the 2004 election mostly (and what fun that was). I get annoyed by Time's frequent frothy substance-free red state "lifestyle" covers (the recent "Who was Mary Magdalene" jumps to mind) but generally enough content to justify their low "media member" subscription rate I get. I like it better than Newsweek or US News & World Report.

Comics Buyer's Guide Wayyyy back in the early 1980s I was a subscriber to this for some years, back in the pre-Internet days of comic fandom. It was a lot of fun, but like a lot of readers I drifted away from it for my comics news fix. While I still buy Wizard with a guilty downcast eye frequently and read The Comics Journal whenever they're featuring someone I'm interested in, CBG is the most "amiable" of the comic mags in my mind, without snobbiness or rank immaturity. Its audience seems to be mostly aging fanboys with an emphasis on silver age and obscure comics. Anyway, they redesigned last year from a weekly newspaper into a monthly magazine and I took a flier on a year-long subscription. Still on the fence if I'll renew, though -- it's expensive, for one thing, and the writing is often really bland, with reviews that say little but "this is good." Great columnists, though, but there's the ubiquitous price guide taking up half the book (admittedly filled out with interesting factoids and reviews). If the subscription were about half the $40 annual rate, I wouldn't think twice about renewing, but that's a lot of dough for a mixed-bag magazine right now.

The New Yorker Our most expensive magazine subscription but well worth it, even if half the time I never seem to get the entire issue read. Best in-depth reporting and feature profiles of any magazine I read.

Parenting (or is it Parents, I never recall) - I of course being the perfect father need no reassurance of my parenting techniques (consisting mostly of repeated tickling and a couple diaper changes a week), but for some reason the wife insists upon it.

Blender While the decaying dinosaur of Rolling Stone ambles along, this U.K.-inspired magazine from the "Maxim" publishers has taken the lead in great music coverage. I'm nuts for the info-packed, snarky feel of UK mags like Mojo, and this is the American equivalent. Sure, lots of scantily-clad ladies for the lads, but also surprisingly diverse coverage of everyone from the Britneys to Bright Eyes to Elvis Costello to the Flaming Lips. Anybody looking for a fun music magazine should read this one.

Premiere Not as comprehensive as Entertainment Weekly, but good Hollywood coverage and profiles. A cheap subscription and good in-depth articles, which usually makes it worth reading every month.

Giant Our newest subscripton, because they offered an insanely low $7/year rate. This new magazine bills itself as "the #1 entertainment mag for guys" which is usually a huge red flag, but I picked up an issue at a newsstand and was surprised by how much I liked it -- it's far more intelligent and lower in testosterone than "Maxim" and "Esquire" and the like. The issue I read actually contained references to Nabokov and a feature article about good ol' British pop legends XTC, and an interview with Ethan Hawke that was actually quite fascinating. It's a new magazine so I felt bound to give it a little support, to help it stand out from most of the brain-dead "men's mags" out there.

Spin Got as a free subscription for some credit card points thing -- Spin is better than it once was, when it was all attitude, ultra-trendy and woefully poor writing. Columns by Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman earn points in my book. Still terrible reviews, though, and frankly, if it weren't free I don't think I'd be reading Spin. The problem with Spin is, I've never really felt like it has a compelling reason to exist.

Columbia Journalism Review OK, this one's mostly for the job, but it's a very good journalism "insiders" zine.

Whew! I need to go read a magazine and take a break from this typing!

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