Compliments (Journalism Division)

By James Fallows

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.

NYRCover.jpg

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/08/compliments-journalism-division/60948/