Magazines Matter: Volume 5 - February 2011

Most popular magazines will contain one or two articles that I think are terrific or eye-opening. It's rare that I'll think an entire issue, cover-to-cover, is amazing. The February edition of Wired magazine pulled that off. February's book was titled "The Underworld Exposed" and the Editors' mission statement summed it up perfectly.

Every page and every article within had a single purpose. What the entire issue aimed to do was "peer into the depths, taking a look at darknets and criminal minds, cheats and con men and creeps who seek to exploit the better impulses--like openness, optimism, and faith in progress--that we typically champion." You're taken by a redacted table of contents and an opening article by David Mamet, "Edge of Darkness" that sets the sinister mood.

Staying with technology, in January, Fortune published a piece by Jessi Hempel called "What the Hell is Going on With TV?" It looked at various new devices that connect to televisions and allow streaming entertainment from the Internet. This month, PC World magazine did a similar thing. In its Reviews and Rankings section, Jason Snell and Jonathan Seff wrote "Media Streamers." In a Consumer Reports-type article, they listed the Roku XDS (2100x) as the #1 media streamer followed by WDTV Live Hub and the Logitech Revue. While there, also check out Robert Strohmeyer's piece on "The Web's Best Sites."

The Oscars or Academy Awards were in February and the big winner was The King's Speech, which took home four trophies in the main categories, including Best Picture. A name that was mentioned a few times that night as well as the next day on the Oprah show was Harvey Weinstein. After his business, The Weinstein Company, struggled over the past few years, Dorothy Pomerantz proclaimed "He's Back" in the Feb. 14th issue of Forbes.

For more business-related news about Hollywood, I was intrigued with Gady Epstein's article in the Feb. 28th issue of Forbes titled, "Box Office in Beijing," or find it online as "How to Invest in China's Box Office Bonanza." John Hopewell and Diana Lodderhose also did "Indies Rise to Fill Gaps" for Variety. An unlikely magazine that published the best series of articles about movies was the Feb. 28 issue of Christian Science Monitor. In fact, the cover photo is a glorious shot of the marquee of the Historic Avon Cinema in Providence that reads, "Reflections on Us - What the Movies Say About America's State of Mind." The mag's editor, John Yemma, prefaces the cover story by asking if movies are just escapism. Within, Neal Gabler's "Where Are the Heroes" pits movies made in different decades to this year's Oscar nominees to see how they might represent the country's mood in those decades.

If one is merely curious about upcoming movies, Jeff Jensen's "Superman Soars Again" and Anthony Breznican's "A New Generation Suits Up" can be found in the Feb. 25th issue of Entertainment Weekly, dubbed the Superhero Special edition. Even though I enjoyed it, I have to criticize. In the Feb. 18th issue of Entertainment Weekly, Dan Snierson's cover story, "The 101 Reasons We Love Parks and Recreation," was amazingly detailed, though I gotta ask if it was nothing but a sales ad for NBC? I only inquire because I've felt that other articles this month have been nothing but ads. One example was Drake Bennett's "I'll Have My Robots Talk to Your Robots," which appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek and which after reading it seemed like a sales ad for Cisco.

Nevertheless, Businessweek did an extremely well-done cover story for its Feb. 7th issue. The headline was "The Kids Are Not Alright." Peter Coy's "The Youth Unemployment Bomb" was all about people under the age of 30 in Egypt struggling to find work and how it's affecting the global economy. For more coverage of the troubles in Egypt and the Middle East, the Feb. 14 and 28th issues of Time magazine lay it all out completely. The articles by Fareed Zakaria and Bobby Ghosh are some of the best reports you'll read on the subject.

I try to avoid political articles or political magazines in general, but there is no denying the Obama versus Reagan comparison called "The Role Model" by Michael Scherer and Michael Duffy also for Time. The political article with the best title of the month has to be James Warren's "Hey, Chicago, Say Hello to Your Next F#@*ing Mayor." Warren's piece, which profiles Rahm Emanuel, appeared in the Feb. 28th issue of Time.

In light of the Peter King hearings on Capitol Hill investigating Muslim radicalism, a timely piece appeared in Ebony. It was "Journey to Allah--Understanding the fundamentals of Islam" by Shirley Henderson. It's articles like this that will hopefully lead to less misunderstandings and controversies. But, it is controversy that sells magazines, so now I'd like to dive into a few.

A simple, technology controversy came by way of David Pogue's "An Open Question" in Scientific American. Pogue compared the software for Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. The controversy is really about which business model is better, Apple or Google. Apple retains sole proprietorship over its software, meaning it controls and approves the apps for its iPhone, while Google licenses proprietorship, meaning the control and approval of apps for its Android is open to anyone.

The second and probably most hyped controversy was the possible work stoppage of the NFL due to disputes over the so-called CBA, or collective bargaining agreement. Jim Trotter profiles the head of the NFL Players Association, the leader of the labor dispute, DeMaurice Smith, in the Feb. 21 issue of Sports Illustrated. Trotter also lays out the basics of the dispute, which is the owners want to give the players less money.

The third controversial article, which also got a bit of hype was "The Apostate" by Lawrence Wright, which not only profiles Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis but also throws down why he left the Church of Scientology. Haggis basically gave up his affiliation with Scientology when he learned of their stance against homosexuality.

The most important of the controversial articles this month was Robert Draper's "Opium Wars" in National Geographic where he cites that since 1979, Afghanistan has produced 80 percent of the world's illegal opium, a four billion dollar industry for that country. Unfortunately, Opium trafficking is supported by the Taliban, which uses the money to fund attacks on Western troops like Americans.

National Geographic didn't lead with controversy. Its cover was a story about young people exploring the tunnels "Under Paris." Washingtonian magazine also lead with something light. The previous month it enumerated the best restaurants in the DC area. For February, you can check out the "75 Great Bars," edited by Mary Clare Glover. One name that appears in both months is Bar Pilar. The best place to get a mojito in DC is Cuba Libre. The best place to get cheap drinks is Chef Geoff's. American Ice Company is the best new bar and the best bar to watch area sports is Nellie's Sports Bar, if you're a Nationals fan and gay.

But, if you don't want controversy and would prefer uplifting, I suggest "The Best Day of My Life," as told to Lisa Goff for Reader's Digest. The piece features six stories from men and women who tell their incredible real-life tales of overcoming adversity. They include a mother who diagnosed her son's dystonia when doctors couldn't, a man who participated in a 1960 lunch counter sit-in, as well as the girl who rowed alone over the Atlantic Ocean.

Best Magazine Articles of February 2011
  1. "The Apostate" by Lawrence Wright for New Yorker.
  2. "Rage, Rap and Revolution" by Bobby Ghosh for Time.
  3. "Opium Wars" by Robert Draper for National Geographic.
  4. "Who Killed Newsweek?" by Harry Jaffe for Washingtonian.
  5. "Show the Monster" by Daniel Zalewski for New Yorker.
  6. "Confessions of a Juggler" by Tina Fey for New Yorker.
  7. "Father John Fiala - Did This Priest Hire a Hit Man" by Alex Tresniowski and Cary Cardwell for People.
  8. "The Weathermen, Underground" by Eric Spitznagel for Businessweek.
  9. "A Legacy of Love & Pride" by Robin D. Stone for Essence.
  10. "Found After 23 Years" by Jill Smolowe and Nicole Weisensee with reporting by Diane Herbst for People.
  11. "Where Are the Heroes" by Neal Gabler for Christian Science Monitor.
  12. "Chilean Miners - Inside Their Ordeal" - Excerpt of 33 Men by John Franklin for People.


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