Archive for the 'News and public affairs' Category

The Daily Beast: A News Paradise

The problem with the news these days is that there’s too much of it.  When David Remnick, the Editor of The New Yorker, gave a talk at Syracuse University, he outlined his morning reading ritual, which consisted of reading through several news websites and print publications.  As much as we all aspire to match Remnick’s news habits, maybe they’re a bit unrealistic for most people.  Most of us wake up, gulp down a cup of coffee, glance at our e-mails, and check out one news website.  Maybe two, if we’re feeling ambitious.

Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker, gets that most Americans simply don’t have the time, energy, or patience to thoroughly sift through all the news.  Her news website The Daily Beast launched on Oct. 16 and, like Arianna Huffington’s The Huffington Post, it serves to provide us with the big news of the day in one website.   The Daily Beast’s main function is to give readers a smart version of the news and, ultimately, save us time; indeed, The Daily Beast’s motto is “Read This Skip That.”

Unlike The Huffington Post, which is a jumble of dozens of stories, photos and ads, The Daily Beast is well organized, with three main colors (red, black, and white), and five manageable web pages.  Carefully placed buzz words, like “Cheat,” “Best,” “Magic,” and “Must,” entice the reader to check out new stories.

On Sunday Nov. 9, the homepage contained the top articles and videos from other sources and a surprisingly large collection of , seven, original stories. There was a story/blog by Tina Brown, called “Magic: How Obama Broke the Dark Spell,” and an article by Patricia Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University, called “Mutts Like Me,” which delves into the multiracial identity of 21st century Americans.

Tina Brown describes The Daily Beast “as a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors.”  That’s what I’m looking for.  I don’t want to waste time looking at dull lists of stories, psst… The Huffington Post; instead I want someone to ruthlessly select the interesting from the mundane and present it to me in a clear, engaging fashion.

Tina Brown’s decision to not use ads is genius.  Although Tina Brown says that she intends to build an audience first and then get advertisers, why not launch the first internet news website without ads instead?  Other similar news websites, like The New York Times, display over a dozen ads on every page, cluttering up the news content.  In contrast, The Daily Beast presents a clear, attractive news spread that’s easy to read.  It’s a news paradise.  In this fast paced world, isn’t that exactly what we need?

Now, I realize that without ads, there’s no revenue.  But what if an ad-free news website is the way to beat out the other competition?  If The Daily Beast can become the main source of online news, perhaps Tina Brown will find another way to make money.  Maybe, if The Daily Beast gets popular enough, it’ll be able to sell news stories for $0.99, just like iTunes does.

–Katie Photiadis


Barack and Roll


Change We Can Believe In

Yes We Can

Weeks before Barack Obama’s electoral landslide, Rolling Stone chose his 47-year-old smiling face to adorn the debut issue of the 41-year-old magazine’s makeover.  The result, dated Oct. 30, hit the newsstands days before the historical election.  It’s all about change, dear readers.  But is it change we can believe in?

   Rolling Stone’s change starts with a reduction in its size from tabloid to a classic magazine format.  Publisher Jann Wenner claims that this will make room for more pages of music news, Random Notes, reviews, and political coverage.  Wenner hopes that more pages equal more revenue, but adding more pages during a plummeting economy seems illogical. 

Regardless, strategically placing Obama on the cover of this transformational issue illustrates Rolling Stone’s endorsement of the change Obama represents as president-elect. 

Obama spoke with Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates to give insight into what makes him tick.   On Oct. 3, the day of the interview, Obama celebrated his 16th wedding anniversary with his wife Michelle. He bought her a necklace, but said he couldn’t predict if she would like it.  Discussing such details while promoting Obama’s plans to address the economic crisis and withdraw U.S. troops out of Iraq shows readers a fuller picture of the man, not just the candidate. For example, Obama showed his sense of humor when sharing that he was often teased by his campaign staff about an old pair of brown shoes he couldn’t seem to retire. 

Rolling Stone intertwines candid moments with Obama and his desire to change how the people’s business is done.  One change Obama wants is to increase volunteerism by expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.  Obama also explains how Americans can stop hogging as much energy by turning off their lights, checking tire gauges, and being more conscious of their everyday role in preservation.

Rolling Stone depicts Obama at times as a scholar – teaching constitutional law in 2002 at University of Chicago – and others as a regular Joe – stopping for ice cream on the campaign trail with running mate Joe Biden. 

 So the insights are intimate, but the overall effect lacks punch. Obama was intended to be an historic and profitable choice for the cover, but it feels like the old Rolling Stone in new clothes.  It could’ve included more articles that expand on Obama’s interview by incorporating stories about the economy, volunteerism, and environmental preservation. 

If its goal was to be a new magazine for a new era, Rolling Stone missed its mark.  The cover is symbolic, but its pages lacked the same symbolic evolution of the cover. This was a chance to fill the pages with an edgy and new look into politics from start to finish.  Yes You Can? More like No, You Didn’t. 

 –Alysia Satchel








Red, White, & Vogue


The nation is at a turning point in politics and policy, and what better time for Vogue to get in touch with its patriotic side? The magazine has consistently featured prominent men and women from politics, but the November issue had that and so much more.  Vogue provided money-saving tips for the sour economy, and dressed the whole issue in our nation’s colors.


The cover featured all-American girl Reese Witherspoon, who was placed full mast with lips painted red and ivory shoulders bare in a strapless blue silk dress. Not to mention her shining blue eyes, which invited any warm-blooded American to stop and flip through the magazine.


Vogue captured Witherspoon while doing a photo shoot in Paris for designer Nina Ricci. Her past and current co-stars sang her praises while Witherspoon sang a few, literally. 


Writer Robert Sullivan validated the actress’ singing ability and touched on her memorable performance as the legendary June Carter Cash. Her portrayal in the movie “Walk the Line” won her an Oscar, and a new level of respect in the world of cinema.


How much more American can you get, when you talk about June Carter Cash and the Man in Black?


Since patriots are far more money conscious than in years past, Vogue certainly took notice and included headlines that were rather different compared to the last few issues. One article was focused on the “wallet conscious” and the other was for someone “shopping on a budget.” And, correct me if I’m wrong, but the big, bold, red cover line “Brighten Up!” sounds as much about surviving the economic crisis as jazzing up your wardrobe.


Inside, Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour used her pre-election editor’s note to point out how the magazine has featured several political women such as future first lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Cindy McCain, and in November’s issue, Jill Biden. Wintour also reflected on a piece about Gov. Sarah Palin that ran in February, which turned out to be one of the few sources the country had on her when she was first announced as the GOP vice presidential candidate.


In this month’s FOB, Vogue informed readers where both parties took their fashion cues from.  Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain were featured a few times each in the issue because their fashion was all the chatter and each lady respectively scored big on the style watch. 


The magazine also offered an inside look into Vice President Elect Joe Biden’s family and more specifically, the women in his life that have inspired him.   


Hands down, this was one of our most historic elections ever, and Vogue was smart enough to see that even before the results were in.


Despite the current state of the economy and the nation’s struggle to cope, Vogue decided to provide a few money saving ideas and a window into the world of one of America’s sweethearts to lighten the load we bear, and spread some patriotic cheer.


God bless America and its glossies.



  Farah Pike




What Can Brown Do For You?

Tina Brown is a magazine brand unto herself. The former editor-in-chief of Tatler and Vanity Fair, Brown’s best known for revolutionizing The New Yorker during her stint in charge from 1992-1998. She then started Talk for Miramax, only for the magazine to fold in early 2002 after burning through millions of Harvey Weinstein’s money.

Now, Brown’s making her mark on the web with The Daily Beast, “a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors.” So, it sounds like a news aggregator – a compilation of the day’s news in one place – even though Brown goes on to say, “The Daily Beast doesn’t aggregate. It sifts, sorts, and curates.” Seems the sort of distinction a former New Yorker editor would make.

There are two aggregators I read on a daily basis – The Huffington Post and Drudge Report. When The Daily Beast was launched, there were the inevitable comparisons, especially between The Beast and Huff Post. The New York Times even ran an article comparing Brown and Arianna Huffington. But there are clear differences between the sites, differences that are explained by the personalities of the proprietors.

For all intents and purposes, The Huffington Post is an immense blog. The New York Times reports Huffington started it as a liberal alternative to Drudge, with constant updates and a partisan bent. The front page is a cluster of bloggers, editors, and contributing writers, with original articles and external links. Huffington gives a home to a vast range of voices that align with her political philosophy.

Tina Brown’s website looks and acts like a magazine. While the “Cheat Sheet” and “Buzz Board” link to other locations, The Beast offers more original content than other aggregators, and gives it more prominent placement.

The entire presentation contributes to the magazine feel. The layout, with its use of images, headlines, and subheads, looks like a magazine should on the web. Articles use magazine design tricks such as pull quotes to continue that feeling.

Like the start-up mags that can afford it, Brown’s also used her network to employ some big names. For example, The Beast got Scott McClellan, President Bush’s former press secretary, to review Oliver Stone’s W, and gave him over 1200 words to do it.

Advertising Age recently reported that more than half of the 20-odd full-time staffers will earn six figures a year. The medium may have changed, but Brown hasn’t.

The Beast also only updates once a day, whereas Huff Post and Drudge change constantly. Without continuous updates, each day of The Beast feels like a separate issue.

While The Huffington Post bills itself as “the Internet newspaper,” The Daily Beast tries to be the must-read Internet magazine. It’s not a one-stop shop for news, but it’s an interesting addition to the day’s web commentary, and one that’s gotten people talking. And on Planet Tina, isn’t that what counts?

– Nate Smith

Less Music, More Superconsciousness

Fader Magazine is traditionally an amalgam of music and global issues.

In the latest issue, music is merely an appetizer for an entree of politically and culturally charged ideas  sauteed with superconsciousness.

Founded in 1998, this independent New York City-based glossy is published eight times a year.

It focuses on music, culture, fashion, hip hop, reggae, independent rock, pop, and dance music.

Usually overflowing with music features, this October/November photo special of Fader fuses the disco and pop group TV On The Radio with other features on war, HIV, and more.

Unlike other mainstream music magazines such as Rolling Stone, this issue is dedicated to global issues that aren’t as widely covered in music news, delving into the intimate details of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and young women of color living with HIV and AIDS in America.
“American Wars” is a photo essay that unleashes visual and verbal truth about American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is effective because it shows a soldier identified as Sgt. Russell of the 10th Mountain Division troops restraining stray dogs that the soldiers befriended. Toward the end of their 16-month tour, some of the soldiers’ tension boiled over when they shot one of the dogs for urinating on a cot. This image exemplifies to Fader’s readers the aggression some soldiers undergo overseas.

Photojournalist Peter van Agtmael embeds images into the readers’ minds with his humanistic storytelling. He personalizes the journey of an amputee, U.S. soldier Raymond Hubbard, and how he lost his leg when a rocket landed near his post. The powerful imagery shows Hubbard staring at himself in the mirror with bottles of medications he needs to counteract his constant pain. Next, Hubbard is playing Star Wars with his children, trying to maintain normalcy in family life throughout the stroke, coma, and amputation he endured.

In 16 emotional pages, the photo essay captures the soldiers’ lives as they trudge through war, day after day.  Van Agtmael eloquently combined every individual soldier’s story and photo to illustrate that these soldiers aren’t just nameless, faceless people you hear about in the news. He depicts them having fun, working, playing with their children, talking with village elders in Afghanistan, and doing everyday tasks—before some of them were ambushed by the Taliban and killed.

Another photo essay covers a different kind of war.  “The Conundrum” tells the tale of young women of color living with HIV. These women are remarkably depicted, from a day on the beach at Coney Island, to living in transitional HIV homes in Jackson, Miss.  The magazine’s use of black and white photos instead of color made me think of the material more critically.

The article discusses how these young women struggle to portray HIV publicly and make people pay attention. It’s alarming that these women wrestle to pay for their medications in the U.S., yet in countries like Mexico, George Bush compensates theirs.

Fader uses transparency in photojournalism to unveil powerful and sensitive topics to its readers.  The reader might think he or she will consume some abstract photos and facts, but the stories beneath are deeper and should ignite dialogue and interest.

If “superconsciousness” means caring not just about human challenges and pain – but about giving voices to the voiceless – then Fader has reached its goal.  And it’s done so without a celebrity musician in sight.

–Alysia Satchel

Ms. Is Still Giving It To Us

Ms. magazine is living proof that feminist magazines still have a job to do and a place on the market.  The Summer 2008 issue was just a taste of how great Ms. was and how great it can still be.  The magazine is a little small in size but it is still offering readers the content that can be hard to come by in other more popular publications.

Ms. magazine, launched nearly 37 years ago as an insert in New York Magazine, is one of America’s first feminist magazines. Co-founders Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin wanted Ms. to address the feminist movement that few acknowledged. Ms. was the answer to all the women’s magazines that only focused on fashion, advice on marriage and babies, and cosmetics. 

What had been a monthly in the ’70s to the late ’80s struggled through tight economic times and ownership changes. Now, current owner the Feminist Majority Foundation manages only to publish Ms. a few times a year, and at a relatively steep $5.95 newsstands price for an 80-page issue. 

The slim magazine still packs a punch. Ms.’s Summer 2008 issue offers several facts and statistics on women’s issues. I would have never known about the rising percentage of women being thrown out of the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy had it not been for this edition of Ms. It was also great to see a small piece in the front of the book about the Girl Scouts. Ms. offers a spotlight on ads that are still objectifying and over sexualizing women to sell products, from travel to beer, at the back of the book.

            The issue’s five features weren’t long, but they were jam-packed with information.  The longest article was only 4 pages. I particularly appreciated the story about the “D.C. Madam,” a woman who after being convicted of several crimes related to prostitution hanged herself. Her “tricks,” big names in the government such as Republican Sen. David Vitter and Harlan K. Ullman, a retired U.S. Navy commander, walked away free. 

            Ms. still has a function in today’s society. This magazine brings much needed attention to women’s issues across the country that rarely get covered in local or national news or big name women’s magazines.

-Cindia Gonzalez

McCain’s Crash Course in Photo Ethics

The Atlantic’s October issue will linger in the memory, but not for James Fallows’ article on bringing the Internet to rural China or Mark Bowden’s look at the “greatest game in football history” 50 years later. What’s inside the magazine isn’t what makes it most memorable.

What will stick is Jill Greenberg’s cover shot of John McCain, and the pictures that The Atlantic didn’t use.

The magazine hired Greenberg, a self-described “hard core Democrat,” to shoot McCain for its cover. She did, but took a few more unflattering pictures, which she later posted to her website after Photoshopping them. In one, Greenberg added shark teeth and blood to McCain’s mouth; in another, a superimposed monkey defecates on McCain’s head. There’s satire and then there’s just insult, and Greenberg leapt over that line.

Greenberg’s not new to magazine covers. She’s shot for Time, Portfolio, and TV Guide, among others. She had to have known that this would create controversy.

The Atlantic’s editor, James Bennet, released a statement condemning Greenberg soon after the story broke, but stood by the original cover. On FOX News, Bennet said that Greenberg broke her contract, wouldn’t be paid, and that The Atlantic was looking into a lawsuit.

Even though Bennet stands by the cover, I’m still not convinced that The Atlantic chose the right image. Greenberg said she left McCain’s eyes red and skin bad, but in addition, the angle seems to exaggerate the left side of McCain’s face, which bears scars from his 2000 melanoma surgery. I’m not sure that a close-up, straight-on headshot was the best choice of image, regardless of the tricks Greenberg used.

Here’s a sampling of other McCain covers, and he looks better in all of them:

• Time, December 13, 1999
Time, February 4, 2008
• Newsweek, February 18, 2008
New York Times Magazine, May 14, 2008
Portfolio, July 7, 2008

In the FOX interview, Bennet said, “We don’t vet our photographers for their politics, we do look at their professional track record.” Maybe the editors and art directors should have vetted her a bit more thoroughly.

During a presidential campaign, with partisanship seemingly at an all-time high, The Atlantic wouldn’t choose a writer with Greenberg’s politics to profile McCain. In fact, the reporter of this piece, Jeffery Goldberg, is among the chorus condemning Greenberg’s actions. So why was the magazine lax in checking the photographer’s background? A photographer can have just as much impact on the final product, if not more. The cover is the first thing the reader sees and sets the tone for the entire book. Unfortunately for The Atlantic, Greenberg’s set the wrong tone in multiple ways.

– Nate Smith