The New York Review of Magazines » The Front The New York Review of Magazines Mon, 28 Jun 2010 15:19:22 +0000 en hourly 1 The (New York Review of) Magazines Matrix Wed, 12 May 2010 04:05:56 +0000 Tim Kiladze NYRM re-creates New York's Approval Matrix to depict the past year in magazines.]]> By Tim Kiladze

In honor of New York’s superlative Approval Matrix, NYRM borrows the format to highlight the best and worst of the past year in magazines.

(Click on image to open in new window and then click on it again to zoom.)

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Anatomy of a Feature Story Wed, 12 May 2010 04:04:18 +0000 Jeffrey Dooley New York's Robert Kolker breaks down how he reported his feature on Captain Sully.]]> By Jeff Dooley

With blogs, news websites and cable TV jumping on and taking ownership of major news stories just seconds after they break, weekly magazines face a new challenge: They must craft creative and original takes on these stories in order to have a place in the conversation. “You either need proprietary sourcing or you need a proprietary idea,” says Robert Kolker, a contributing editor for New York magazine. When editor-in-chief Adam Moss tapped Kolker to cover Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s miracle landing on the Hudson, Kolker knew that the former requirement was out of the question — Sully was saving himself for 60 Minutes. So Kolker, Moss and deputy editor Jon Gluck got to work on creating a new idea. Kolker takes us through the process.

1) Follow the News
“The crash happened on a Thursday, and the three of us met in Adam’s office the following morning at 11. We agreed that the survivor stories were all starting to blend together — it was such a short flight that everyone’s story was pretty much the same. So, we decided we would try to write something about the pilot.”

2) Dig for Details
“Adam said that something on the cable coverage struck him, about how Sully was an old-school pilot, that he was flying by hand, and that that type of flying was a dying art. Jon suggested that we could also include a blow-by-blow, moment-by-moment re-creation of the flight, explaining what went right. So I got cracking on both of those.”

3) Choose Your Angle
“I’d been around the block enough times to know that the group that would talk would be the pilots’ union. I got in touch with two different pilots who had flown the same type of plane and the same route a million times, and I had them take me through things second-by-second. Then I found an article in which an official read through the flight transcript, including time signatures. It wasn’t really noticed in the mass of coverage following the crash, but I used that along with the pilots’ interviews to create the chronological spine of the story. That’s where I got Sully saying, ‘My aircraft,’ which became the headline.”

4) Get Lucky
“The thought was that we could close the story on the following Thursday, so it would come out 10 days after the crash. But then the situation with Caroline Kennedy and New York’s governor, David Paterson, about who was going to be appointed senator, was imploding, and my colleague Chris Smith was preparing a cover story on it that had exclusive material. So they made the decision to bump my story a week. That gave me an extra week to tease out the story even further, and then what happened was that Sully had made himself such a precious resource out there that he was becoming this folk hero, and it became clearer, especially in New York, that this guy had really pulled off a miracle. So they decided to put my story on the cover. It was really just a result of luck and happenstance.”

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Hot Shots Wed, 12 May 2010 04:03:46 +0000 Suzanne Weinstock By Suzanne Weinstock

They say all publicity is good publicity. If so, these magazine photo spreads are as good as it gets. Whether they provoked cheers or jeers, they certainly made headlines.

Levi Johnston poses for Playgirl
As if impregnating Sarah Palin’s daughter weren’t tawdry enough, Levi Johnston took it (almost) all off for Playgirl in March 2010. After declaring that he was 90 percent sure he would go full frontal, Johnston ultimately kept the goods covered up.

Karl Lagerfeld shoots Miss Dirty Martini for V
“No one wants to see curvy women,” Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld has famously said. He clearly changed his mind when he shot the plus-size burlesque dancer Miss Dirty Martini for V magazine’s January 2010 “size issue.”

Adam Lambert’s ‘straight’ shoot in Details
Straight stars in homoerotic photos are always good for a cheap thrill. But what about the opposite? Openly gay singer Adam Lambert caused a stir in a raunchy shoot with a nude woman in November 2009.

Models in blackface in Vogue France
Model of the moment Lara Stone was shot by superstar photographer Steven Klein and styled by legendary Vogue France editor Carine Roitfeld — in blackface. The 14-page October 2009 spread triggered debate over whether the shoot was offensive or art.

Vanity Fair publishes Annie Leibovitz’s photos of Tiger Woods post-scandal
The hubbub surrounding the cover and photo spread in Vanity Fair was all about timing. Fortunate to have taken the photos pre-scandal, the magazine got Tiger onto its February 2010 cover — shirtless, with a steely expression — shortly after the news of his many affairs broke.

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Pages of Our Lives Wed, 12 May 2010 04:02:03 +0000 Derrick Taylor By Derrick Taylor

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Follow the Tweeters Wed, 12 May 2010 04:01:57 +0000 Sonal Shah By Sonal Shah

Magazines: Vehicles for long, insightful, detailed writing. Twitter: A social media network that limits entries to 140 characters. How successful have magazines been at adapting to the world’s shortest information format? Here are our tweet-sized picks of the best magazine-related Twitter feeds:

@TVGuide tweets hourly, with celeb gossip and links to entertainment industry news. Juicy and concise.

@wired’s newsy, chatty tweets are often creatively abridged stories. Open questions make this a more interactive feed.

@theweekmagazine is strong on discussion, referencing specific writers or publications. Follows its followers, listens to readers.

@newyorker is good for keeping up with the magazine, but the @newyorkerest feed is better for curated “best of” links. Posts “the best” of The New Yorker. Currently “in hibernation mode.”

@spinmagazine’s frequently updated music news feed keeps you in the loop. Also has helpful links to musicians’ tweets.

@fastcompany is succinct and gets to the core of the business of innovation. Bonus points for simplicity and variety.

@UtneReader offers a smorgasbord, often presented as provocative facts and figures. The tagline — “Alternative media meets new media” — suits.

@thedailybeast is always quirky, always au courant. Often delivered in a slightly tantalizing way to lure readers to the links.

@NatGeoSociety gives a daily dose of odd, inspiring information. The links to multimedia stories are especially interesting.

@consumerreports keeps obsessive paranoiacs on top of recalls, investigations and recommendations.

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Q&A: EW’s Movie Critic Lisa Schwarzbaum Wed, 12 May 2010 04:01:49 +0000 Dustin Fitzharris EW critic.]]> By Dustin Fitzharris

Lisa Schwarzbaum can be described as a survivor on an endangered species list. Since 1995, she’s been one of Entertainment Weekly’s two film critics. But more and more publications — most alarmingly, Variety, which in March let go of its chief film critic and chief theater critic — have been laying off their reviewers. If Variety, a weekly entertainment trade magazine, isn’t supporting criticism’s future, does that mean there isn’t one? Schwarzbaum tells NYRM that it’s not time to roll the credits just yet.

How much time do you spend watching movies?
I see a film a day, but sometimes I will see two in one day and nothing for two days.

And how long do you have to turn around a piece?
It depends. I’m seeing a movie this Thursday, and it’s due on Friday. That is a fast turnaround.

How has changed the landscape of your work?
Sometimes what we see misses the deadline to get into print. We will still see it, and then we will put it online. This is a new wrinkle in how most publications do things. There is no such thing as weekly anymore. There’s no such thing as monthly. There’s not even a 24-hour cycle for newspapers. Everything is constantly updated and online.

Many publications have been eliminating critics altogether. Others have been relying on freelancers. Is this frightening?
Of course it is. This is complicated for a couple of reasons. The consumption of “criticism” has changed because you can look anything up online and get something quick — websites like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic will say 78 percent of critics said it was fresh or it was rotten, but that’s not criticism.

What is criticism?
A cultural critic can look into the components of the piece you are analyzing so you understand how it fits into the culture you’re in. He or she can pick apart the elements of it and can take his or her expertise to describe why he or she does or doesn’t think it fits in and then request you to use your own intelligence to see if you agree or have an argument with the critic. The idea is to challenge and stimulate.

It’s been said that the younger generation doesn’t need critics. Do you agree?
I think they do, but they don’t know it.

If publications continue to eliminate critics, how does this affect the movie industry? Wouldn’t smaller films that can’t afford a lot of marketing suffer the most?
You’re right. A great example of that is The Hurt Locker. That really got its push from critics. They loved it and kept writing about it. Smaller films will suffer and will have to find new ways to be discovered, and those are the very films that can’t afford promotion.

How would it affect the public?
There will be nothing standing between the marketing machinery and the audience of the big films. There are many readers who are more interested in reading the box office as a measure of what is good, rather than reading a critic. Just because something came in at number one doesn’t make it good. Without the critics to distinguish marketing from content, the consumers will suffer.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a film critic?
If you love film or just adore cultural criticism, do it, do it, do it. See everything. Write on your blog — not for how many hits you get but to sharpen your own critical acumen. Now, that’s all high-falutin’ to say because in the meantime you need to support yourself, and I don’t know how you do that.

Is there a future for critics?
I think there will always be a place for writing about movies. Everyone loves to write and talk about the movies. We need smart people to look at what’s coming out and figure out what it means.

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My Ladies’ Home Journal Heritage Wed, 12 May 2010 04:01:41 +0000 Spencer Bailey By Spencer Bailey

A series of illustrated Ladies’ Home Journal magazine covers from the 1890s and early 1900s used to hang in frames on the walls of my grandparents’ house. I remember a few of them: a white, spotted dog on a green background; nine yellow chicks splayed on a black page; a woman wading in water wearing a swimming cap. There was also an original painting — featuring a tan bunny rabbit with beady black eyes on a navy blue background — which became one of the Journal’s most famous images. Published on the cover of the April 1903 issue, it was a defining part of the early 20th-century American ethos. So much so, in fact, that it was featured in fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and art director George Lois’ 2007 book Iconic America: A Roller-Coaster Ride Through the Eye-Popping Panorama of American Pop Culture.

All of these covers were illustrated by Frank S. Guild, my great-great-grandfather and namesake, born in 1856, who was, I recently found out, the Journal’s art editor. His middle name was Spencer.

Growing up, all I knew about Frank was that he once lived in New Hampshire and that his father’s name, too, was Spencer. My knowledge about the man who helped illustrate the Journal — America’s most advertisement-filled magazine in 1900 and the first in the nation to reach one million subscribers — was limited. I decided to do some research.

A Google search of “Frank Guild” brought up surprising results. A Wikipedia page — just a stub, but a start — that labels him as an American-born painter. An eBay listing for the Journal’s April 1904 issue, the one with the chicks, for $25. (I went ahead and bought it.) A Google Books page, featuring a scanned copy of the 1898 book Model Houses for Little Money, to which Frank contributed two chapters (“Remodeling the Front Door” and “What a Window Will Do For a Home”). And a website for Antiques Emporium, a shop in Raleigh, N.C., selling an 1884 painting by Frank in a gold frame (a “lovely rendering of a young lady in a garden wood”) for $1,250.

Digging around online databases and books, I found more. Harvard Libraries had a scanned copy of the “What Some Folks Write About” section in the Journal’s August 1904 issue. It describes Frank as “the Journal’s own art manager, who designed the famous ‘Bunnie’ on the Easter Journal of 1903, and also the popular cover of yellow ‘chicks’ on the last Easter issue.” And in Bowdoin professor Jennifer Scanlon’s book Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies’ Home Journal, Gender, and the Promises of Consumer Culture, I learned that the Journal’s art department was “considered the best in the nation by the early 1900s.”

When the April 1904 issue I ordered on eBay arrived in the mail, I flipped through all 74 of its 12-by-16-inch pages, reveling in the illustrations and advertisements (for things like corn syrup, carriages and corsets). The issue’s snappy stories and top-notch writing, too, demonstrate why the Journal had cultural cachet. Consider “Monarch, The Grizzly,” a feature about hunting grizzlies in the Sierra Mountains, written and illustrated by Ernest Thompson Seton, a founder of the Boy Scouts of America. Seton’s prose is clear and cool-headed (“Just as fads will for a time sway human life, so crazes may run through all animals of a given kind”), and his pencil drawings, one featuring a grizzly bear amid the sprawling California landscape, help illuminate the text.

Then there’s the issue’s invitingly simple yet stylish cover, which, in the lower right-hand corner, features its artist’s yellow-painted initials: F.G. They’re the initials of an artist whose contributions to the magazine were wide-ranging. And consistent. An artist who illustrated stories about homes and gardens, and backyards and birdhouses. An artist who drew front doors and flower pots and chairs. An artist who also wrote sidebars and articles, including “Easily-Made Dressing-Tables For Girls” (Dec. 1897) and “The Washstand as a Thing of Beauty” (April 1898). An artist who helped usher in a century of iconic American covers, illustrations and images. An artist who, it appears, played a big role in shaping the Journal’s early identity. An artist named Frank.

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Party Time Wed, 12 May 2010 04:01:39 +0000 Ali Gharib By Ali Gharib

A wise man once said: When times are good, people drink; when times are bad, people drink more. For journalists and writers — already notorious lushes — the latter might not be humanly possible. But they can keep going. One mainstay of publishing, the magazine party, has stuck gloriously around despite pitfalls in the industry. Because literary crowds are so much fun, here is a rundown of our favorite literary magazine parties.

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Mag-a-zine [mag-uh-zeen]: noun Wed, 12 May 2010 04:01:36 +0000 Zachary Sniderman By Zachary Sniderman

We here at NYRM are celebrating the magazine in all its printed, online, left, right, political, cultural — err, what is it again? It’s a catch-all brand of journalism that is easy to recognize but not necessarily easy to define. To help pin down a definition, we asked industry folks, academics — and even a student or two — a simple question: What is a magazine? Their answers weren’t so simple.

“I figure altogether magazines have less of a tie to news hooks and have an
open philosophy towards layout, design and, in that sense, curation of the story.”
Lam Thuy Vo, multimedia editor, The Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong

“To me, a magazine has to be printed, with colorful photos and interesting prose.
I’m old-school when it comes to my magazines.”
Cilia Kohn, blogger and business development associate, British Consulate-General

“Unlike a newspaper, at which all readers are welcome for their money, a magazine
caters to members of a club. Thus, The New York Times may, when occasion warrants, write
about guns and ammo, but Guns and Ammo magazine must always steer the conversation
back to the two things in its name.”
Anthony Ramirez, former reporter, The New York Times

“Magazines are built to both inform and delight. I think the latter aspect is really the defining quality.”
Andrew Nusca, associate editor, CBS Interactive

“A good magazine is a community of thought, a place to tell and read good stories,
to learn and to understand. It has a voice, a point of view that speaks to its readers every
week/month/quarter — it carries on a kind of conversation with them unavailable in a newspaper report.”
David Funkhouser, journalism student, Columbia University

“The word ‘magazine’ means storage space for dynamite. A magazine is full
of surprises and it can explode at any minute.”
Jeremy Leslie, founder, magCulture blog (from a 2009 post)

“Magazines take news and information one step beyond what constitutes ‘news’
— whether it’s developing a topic into an in-depth feature or adding an ‘a-ha’ spin on
well-known topics, the role of the magazines in today’s society is to spark further
discussion and water cooler conversations.”
Rachel Chang, editor-in-chief, J-14 magazine

“A print magazine to me is the perfect mix of art and education. A magazine
offers a journey, aspirational wants, visual delights and insight.”
Sophia Brown, integrated market manager at Here Media, Out

“Online-only magazines are an evolution of magazine journalism’s defining characteristic:
going more deeply into more aspects of a story than afforded by the 1,000-word news
analysis piece in a daily paper or the 90-second segment on the nightly news.”
Greg Bocquet, multimedia reporter,

“Magazines are an equal balance between presentation and content. Graphics and illustration
bring the content to life, just as the content gives its design heft and meaning.”
Zachary Sniderman, journalism student, Columbia University

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Dead or Alive? Wed, 12 May 2010 04:01:33 +0000 Frederick Dreier By Frederick Dreier

We all love magazines, but how should we gauge the health of the industry? Sure, the global recession has caused advertising dollars to dry up for all print publications. And even your mom is spending less time reading Mother Jones and more time reading on her MacBook. But for every expert writing an epitaph for print magazines, there is another promising clearer skies ahead.

They’re Dead
“Magazines are not dying. It’s the people behind them who are committing suicide. They devalued the reading experience so much, and the free business model is not sustainable.”
Samir Husni, director, University of Mississippi’s Magazine Innovation Center (Campaign, Nov. 6, 2009)

“The situation’s changed. We all kind of regret that our ancestors gave away the magazine for too little money.”
David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire (The New York Times, Dec. 16, 2009)

“Any publisher who thinks that magazine spending is going to rebound to their levels before 2008 and 2009 is naïve and deluding themselves.”
Lee Doyle, C.E.O. of North America of Mediaedge (Advertising Age, July 2009)

“In a climate like this, I think people are really weighing what’s more important to them: being eligible for the National Magazine Awards or making their budgets.”
Susan Lyne, C.E.O. of Gilt Groupe (The New York Times, April 7, 2009)

“The world has changed; the methods and speed with which we can receive information, the pace of life and consumers’ changing lifestyles will change the magazine model.”
Tony Jones, C.E.O. of Pensord Press printing company (PrintWeek, May 22, 2009)


Not So Fast!
“I want 1.6 million women to go to the newsstand every month to buy Cosmo, and they do. We don’t want that genie out of the bottle. I don’t have any interest in challenging that economic model.”
Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines (The New York Times, May 31, 2009)

“I can’t see anyone sitting down with a cup of coffee and picking up their electronic version of a magazine — it’s not so tactile and simply does not have the same attraction!”
Richard Gray, managing director of Prinovis Liverpool printing company (PrintWeek, May 22, 2009)

“As long as people are willing to pay more than £5 for a watch, then we’ll have watch advertising, and we’ll have magazines.”
Russell Davies, columnist for Wired (Campaign, April 3, 2009)

“We get many world exclusives that are beating out the Internet. It’s quite an accomplishment for a print media form to continuously do that.”
Rob Borm, associate publisher of Game Informer (, June 9, 2008).

“Print can’t deliver music, video, but what print can deliver is beautiful, in-depth visuals and journalism that explores subjects in a particular kind of way.”
Gary Belsky, editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine (The New York Times, Oct. 11, 2009)

“We’re looking at double-digit growth through November, December and January. You only have to look at a bellwether title like The Australian Women’s Weekly. This month it’s 400 pages and full of ads. The top-10 industry selling titles are very strong at the moment.”
Peter Zavecz, commercial director of Pacific Magazines (The Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 4, 2009)

“The market is definitely stronger. November has exceeded our expectations on revenue.
All indications are very positive.”
Lisa Hudson, C.E.O. of Fairfax Magazines (The Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 4, 2009)

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