Monday, May 16, 2011

The future of magazines does not require your cynicism. (POP!Best!)

If it is true that starting a blog is like starting a magazine, as Slate writer Tom Scocca recently pointed out, it appears equally true that running a magazine is increasingly like writing a blog, judging from two recent examples of "journalism" that I thought bore examining.

Exhibit 1: The "hit"(?) "movie" (?) Something Borrowed, which you may or may not have known was adapted from the "hit" (?) "book" (?) Something Borrowed. In last week's Entertainment Weekly, you will find a guest column from Emily Giffin, the author of Something Borrowed (the book). Emily took time out from writing other important things that might someday be a movie to tell us about her experiences from the making of the book Something Borrowed into the movie Something Borrowed, an experience that Emily Giffin feared might be horrific but which to her amazing surprisement, or something like that, turned out not to be so bad after all!

More importantly, Emily Giffin was also very concerned that the movie version of her book would not be very good, so you will be heartened and not at all surprised to learn -- from Emily Giffin, writing in Entertainment Weekly, that that's not the case! According to Emily Giffin's guest column in last week's magazine, the movie version of her book is very good!

("Magical," I think was a word she used; if she didn't actually say "magical," it can certainly be inferred.)

So, to recap: Emily Giffin, who wrote a book called Something Borrowed, and who then had a movie made from her book, took the time out from writing other things to fill us in on the important knowledge that having a movie made from your book can often be a fun, heartwarming experience made all the better by the fact that the movie made from her book is pretty much the best movie ever made.

As I read Emily Giffin's advertorial, I could only think to myself not just that it read pretty much as you'd expect a blog post from Emily Giffin to read if Emily Giffin had a blog, but also that getting Emily Giffin to write about the magical experience of how magical her perfect-book-turned-perfect-movie was likely a much better, and cheaper, advertisement for Something Borrowed than taking out an actual full-page advertisement in Entertainment Weekly would have been.

It turns out, too, that Emily Giffin does have a blog, which I'll get back to in a minute, but first I want to talk about Tina Brown's adventures in journalism-come-blog, as expressed in last week's Newsweek (an increasingly misnamed magazine, at least as to the first half of the title).

Tina Brown took in the royal wedding, but she didn't just take it in: she "covered" (?) it for News(?)week, and provided us with just the journalistic facts in an article entitled "Notes from a Royal Wedding."

(The first thing I noted is that Tina Brown very journalistically did not declare this THE royal wedding, as so many non-journalists did; Tina Brown, like me, remembered that there is more than one royal family in the world.)

Tina Brown covered a royal wedding in the very objective manner that you would expect from Newsweek, beginning with a quote that I imagined could have come from a younger, potentially more romantic Walter Cronkite:

The great thing about a royal wedding is that it’s the ultimate national Groundhog Day. All those cartoon faces doing all the same things, except it ends in a gloriously different way. And however cynical you feel at the outset, it’s impossible to resist the potent images of historical bonding.
(The link in that quote sends you, if you click it, to an even fuller coverage of what is on that page called, after all, THE Royal Wedding; but, both Newsweek and I at least agree that "chockfull" is a word.)

(Kudos to Tina Brown, though, for referring to a movie other than Star Wars. Although how much better would it have been if she had compared Wills-and-Kate to Anakin-and-Padme?)

I question whether any wedding ends in a "gloriously different way" than any other wedding; don't they all end with the couple getting married? Then again, maybe I'm just cynically resisting potent images at the outset.

Tina Brown (whose "sharp, witty prose" is celebrated by Wikipedia) goes on:
You just succumb. You just roll over. Nothing to be done except count up the score of past versus present. The couple—their chemistry lit up the screen. Compare it with the tango of uneasy body language every time Charles and Diana appeared as a couple. When Catherine’s eyes met William’s over the marriage vows at the Abbey, there was a powerful vibe of contented sexual understanding. Her gaze was level and demure, secure in the long years of his affection. He returned it with a look that said, I trust.

The link in that quote goes to a page that takes a long time to load; I was hoping for a close-up full-screen shot of "a look that said, I trust," but instead ended on a page titled (journalistically), "William's Royal Giggle Fest."

Journalistically.

Also: Lit up the screen? Was Tina Brown reporting on watching the royal wedding on TV? So she didn't go there to cover it? NPR even sent someone -- a pop culture blogger, at that. But Newsweek coudn't sent Tina Brown (who is, I believe, a member of British nobility)?

I should note that I read Tina Brown's startling expose of a royal wedding in a magazine, so I did not have the benefit of those links illuminating the experience; my reading (which I did while shaving one morning) was limited to words on a page, words like:

The best single takeaway from the wedding is how fast Catherine has morphed into a future monarch. The new Duchess of Cambridge has a sleek, natural poise. Forget her new status as a duchess and a princess. This woman with no patrician forebears is ready for the throne already.

Yes, if there is one thing that can be learned from a royal wedding, it is that the woman at the center of it, who has been at the center of public attention for 8 years now, is ready to be at the center of public attention in a ceremonial role. After all, Now-Princess Kate has already learned to use the Royal Barristers to sue commoners for publishing pictures of her playing tennis.

Is Tina Brown's "article" (?) news? Or merely the private musings of someone who gets to treat a magazine as her blog? For answers to that question, I went back to Emily Giffin's blog, because it turns out that Emily Giffin, too, blogged about a royal wedding -- which she non-journalistically called "the" royal wedding. (The picture at the start of this post is from Emily's Royal Wedding blog entry, which she titled "wedding fever!" [lower case in the original].

Emily took the long-term view of the proceedings, declaring that "thirty years from now" she would most remember things like the way the trees placed along the church aisle ("Kate's idea, natch") brightened up the Abbey and made it both "formal and intimate at once," or
3. Picture-perfect Pippa and hot Harry. In contrast to the hideously comical, Dr. Seuss-esque selections of the Princesses of York, Eugenie and Beatrice. Oh, no they didn't.

Oh, she went there! (Cue audience to warningly go "ooooooooh!") Emily Giffin's takedown of Eugenie and Beatrice was echoed, in part, by Tina Brown, who called Beatrice "Sarah Ferguson’s unfortunate older daughter," without explaining why she was unfortunate.

I could go on, but I won't. Much has been written about the fact that several million blogs are started every day, or whatever the figure is, and much has been written about the fact that magazines appear to be losing readers faster than Prince William is losing hair...

...Oh, no, he DIDN'T!...

... but nothing (until this post) has been made of the fact that magazines appear to be combatting the threat posed by blogs by becoming blogs, only they come out in print, without links, and about a week after everyone else has already said them. (Emily Giffin's blog was posted April 29, 2011. Tina Brown's Notes has a date of May 1, 2011, but, to be fair, Emily Giffin did not have a helpful link to William's Giggle Fest; had Emily taken her time to post such a thing, she might have won this round.)

The real point is that Tina Brown's article made me wonder why I still subscribe to Newsweek; I don't read my morning newspaper anymore, and if Newsweek is going to simply provide me with a written version of Tina Brown's blog, while my Entertainment Weekly is just going to let me hear directly from authors how great the movie version of their book turned out to be (while later in the magazine giving a review that disputes everything the author said), why should I bother reading those, too?

Amidst all the blather about whether people will pay for content on the Internet, you'd think there'd be some talk about whether people will pay for content that is, simply, terrible.

Perhaps we could have Tina Brown and Emily Giffin debate that, in print.

In the meantime, if there is one thing you can take away from this post, and remember for thirty years, it is that the Internet is best used for descriptions of butt itching:



Right, Rogue Mutt?

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1 comment:

Rogue Mutt said...

Come on, don't you want the world to know when your butt itches? That's crucial information!

Like most people under 50 I get most of my news from the Internet. A lot of news comes from Twitter, which was how I found out both about bin Laden being killed and Justin Verlander throwing a no-hitter for the Tigers.

Then again I've never really liked magazines or newspapers. After you're done with them they just lie around taking up space until you collect enough of them to recycle, although with magazines you can't even do that. It's annoying and really you can read most of the same content online.

And BTW, didn't "Something Borrowed" bomb? I don't think it was even in the Top 10 last weekend and "Bridesmaids" has probably already made more money than it in one weekend.