At the close of last year, I caved in to the temptation to subscribe to several magazines. I don’t know what it was; something about the new year made me think I could read more, like paying for gym membership makes you think you’ll work out more.
And so I’ve received several issues of Rolling Stone magazine (among others), and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. One year, to be precise. The good news is, it’s not so bad.
The biweekly magazine is slim and shiny, with short, flashy stories to match. This is perfect reading on my commute, with a mix of music news and artist briefs combined with longer-form offerings. I enjoy flipping through the pages, but–unlike other publications–I don’t feel guilty if I skip the big stories, because I know another issue will arrive in no time.
The one thing about Rolling Stone that I knew about ahead of time, but was not entirely prepared for, is its strong liberal bias—especially anything by Matt Taibbi. My fear in reading very liberal publications is that I am setting up an echo chamber; perhaps I am too sensitive to the fear, but it makes me take current affairs pieces with a grain of salt. All coverage of Occupy Wall Street, for instance, feels very slanted, but even a piece about Michele Bachmann’s high school suicide zone feels biased against the very conservative politician. On issues of great importance to me, I don’t want to have to worry whether I am getting a certain “version” of the facts.
That being said, however, there are still many things to like about Rolling Stone. While coverage is tilted toward the rock greats that gave the publication its reputation, the magazine also focuses on a range of artists from many genres. I’ve enjoyed learning more about Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Ray, and the Black Keys, to name a few–even if I don’t end up becoming their biggest fans. (OK, I realize that those examples aren’t exactly busting up genre, but those are the profiles I’ve read most recently.)
Interviews with celebs like George Clooney strain to be racy, but I still liked hearing about him. And if the worst thing they can say is that he feels immense pressure to succeed–like so many others that the magazine profiles–well, that’s not so bad.
And every once in a while, I find a journalistic gem–a unique story that makes me perk up and forget what time it is. “Santiago’s Brain” is a good example. It is a profile of a 13-year-old genius–er, “exceptionally gifted” student–named Santiago Gonzalez who programs apps and reads math textbooks for fun. Beyond simply reveling in the mind-blowing power of this kid’s brain, the article also addresses a dearth of programs in the United States for gifted–much less exceptionally gifted–children.
Other stories catch my eye as a writer on the lookout for new ideas. A one-page article about Silk Road, a mysterious e-commerce site for black-market goods that puts Craigslist to shame, piqued my curiosity in the heretofore unheard-of online sale of illicit materials and substances–not, of course, because I am interested in using their services, but because I would love to profile someone who has! That’s a clip to be filed away for later.
More than anything, Rolling Stone is a magazine to entertain and titillate, and it does so more or less reliably. I never read it in its heyday, when rock ruled the radio, but I imagine the comparison would not be favorable to today’s publication. But it is still a fun guilty-pleasure read on the metro, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
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