The West Coast Magazine World Takes A(nother) Bow

Two issues of California Sunday Magazine, and one of Pacific Standard, shown with a typical mid-Atlantic late-summer humid-and-overgrown backyard scene behind them.

I’ve spent most of my working-and-studying life either on the East Coast or outside the United States. But, as I’ve mentioned roughly one million times in this space, I’ve always considered myself to be from-and-of the West Coast and have wished that the political journalism world, like the tech world, had been based on that side of the country.

The overall shift in center-of-gravity that I hope for is not going to occur, at least not anytime soon. The national capital remains in Washington, the financial and media capital is in New York, and the Eastern seaboard as a whole has an advantage in big- and small-time universities over the West.

But I celebrate and support every new sign of first-tier journalistic enterprise from my California homeland. Here are two relatively recent examples, which I encourage you to notice — and to support, by which I mean paying money to subscribe.

One is Pacific Standard, headquartered in Santa Barbara, the latest incarnation of a magazine previously known as Miller-McCune.

We at The Atlantic have all kinds of connections and overlaps with this Pacific publication. Its editor in the Miller-McCune era, John Mecklin (now of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists), is a friend; its editor as it became Pacific Standard, Maria Streshinsky (now at Mother Jones), had been the Atlantic’s managing editor until she left to move back home to the west; and its current editor, Nicholas Jackson, was one of our stalwarts when the Atlantic was launching its new and improved digital presence. (These “previously of” and “now at” notes will give you an idea of the flux of journalistic life).

But even if I didn’t know any of them I would say: this is an excellent magazine, as you can get started judging by its latest cover story on what it takes to draw attention to climate-change issues.   

The other recent startup is The California Sunday Magazine, which comes with a number of West Coast Sunday newspapers but which you can subscribe to (as I do!) on its own. We’ve got lots of friends there too: contributing editor Nicole Allan once sat next to me at the Atlantic’s Washington office; editor-in-chief Doug McGray is an associate from various stops along the way, as is senior editor Kit Rachlis; and the current issue has a photo spread by Lauren Greenfield, whose pictures I got to publish long ago when I was editor of US News. The creation of any new newspaper-related feature is the classic triumph of hope over experience-and-big-data. But this is a magazine I look forward to reading when it shows up each month, thousands of miles from its home.

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I could spend six more paragraphs talking about other strong West Coast publications and centers. The LA Review of Books is always interesting, plus obviously Wired; so is the great civic forum Zócalo. And of course we have our friends and American Futures colleagues at the L.A.-based Marketplace.

[Update: My friend Jeffrey Wasserstrom of UC Irvine, who for many years was one of the forces behind the excellent ChinaBeat blog and now writes the China Blog for the LA Review of Books, points me toward Boom: A Journal of California, based at UCLA. This also looks great, and I have signed up for it too.]

But I will stop before I make myself homesick. Please check out Pacific Standard and California Sunday Magazine, and as with any worthwhile publication, consider the difference it can make if you subscribe.