Compliments (Journalism Division)

1) NY Review. Yes, the Atlantic is the best magazine of all. But for an outstanding single issue of any publication, you'd have to try hard -- and we will! -- to top the current issue of the New York Review of Books.


So many of the pieces in this issue are outstanding -- table of contents here, many of the articles behind a paywall -- that it would be invidious to start running down the list. I would be afraid to leave some out.

Instead I'll say that in addition to coverage of politics and war and Cuba and culture and the Supreme Court and the health-care reform bill and Dubai and film and history and the Euro and artists and war of the genders and a lot more, there is a piece about the World Cup, by a life-long soccer lover, that ratifies my life-long decision to give soccer a pass.  This one, "The Shame of the World Cup," is online free. It's by the British writer Tim Parks and, in keeping with the glorious tradition of English sporting self-loathing (previously here), it ends thus: "In the event the grand finale was a disgrace; it also offered another pathetic 'English' performance in the shape of the referee, Howard Webb." There is incredibly much more in this issue.

2) WaPo. Yes, the Post has had its travails, which various writers, including me, have chronicled in dispatches too numerous to link to. Last month its big take-out series on the shadow world of the intel-industrial complex got deserved praise. Here's a more modest feature that I thought remarkable: a photo-essay from the Washington Post Sunday magazine, with stark Margaret Bourke-White-ish portrayals of the physical infrastructure of Washington.
DavidDealWaPo.pngThis is a sample, a shot of the Bryant Street pumping station, in NW DC. The online show of the photos is very good, but they looked even more dramatic in the magazine itself. The photos are by David Deal, based in Charlottesville, and accompanying essay by the WaPo's Steve Hendrix. I know Deal slightly, and eons ago Hendrix was an intern-assistant for me. The reason I found this presentation in the magazine so impressive and encouraging is that it was quite a gutsy thing to do: to commit that much expense and that much space within the magazine simply to pictures -- and photos whose quality and impact we associate with the glory days of Life and Fortune magazines in the Thirties and Forties. From Hendrix's essay:

"Deal has a subcategory of interest in hidden spaces: the public places that now sit forlorn, abandoned and moldering invisibly, sometimes in plain sight. The most surprising of these is the old Uline Arena, a cavernous cylindrical dome in Northeast near the New York Avenue Metro station that is overlooked by thousands of Red Line commuters a day. A former hockey arena now doing duty as a filthy parking garage, it is an urban cavern with a remarkable pedigree: It was the site of the Beatles's first American concert. The boys set up just about where a Toyota Tundra with Virginia plates can be found on most work days."

3) The Atlantic online: There is more on this site each day that any one person can read, let alone assess. But I can't not mention Alexis Madrigal's feature yesterday on "robot traders," which is a real feat of exposition, illustration, and explanation. In ye olden days, that could have stood as an article in the "real" magazine. Now, just part of the cornucopia.

Only meta-point: even during these end days for journalism, or at least the journalism biz, lots of first-rate work going on.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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