{ Magazines are still printing. On paper! They’re finding creativity out of limitations. And they’re finally featuring graphic novelists. }

September 18, 2014 § 1 Comment

As mentioned before, I was gone a lot this summer. Camping, traveling, phone off, laptop closed. Magazines stacked up like stalagmites underneath my coffee table, and a digital digest of boutique pubs pooled up on my Feedly. Finally, after drinking coffee in the afternoon and thus staying awake late late late, I binged on all the indie mag news from the past couple months til now. I wanted to share the highlights with you and flesh out the most stand-out ideas. I have to hand it to Stack magazines, magCulture and Magpile for doing the real work of documenting these ventures. I’m just rehashing stuff that made me say, “oooh.”

{ Slow Journalism, a.k.a. Longform, a.k.a. This is all I want out of life and print magazines }

beltwayThe Intentional Quarterly is “dedicated to building creative communities and showcasing emerging artists.” They rock a print magazine, a clean website, and even host events. I love events.

Here’s a sample of writing: “So, My Roommates are My Parents” is a funny, well-edited piece on privilege (by this founder of cool-looking project Be You Be Sure); there’s a phenomenal story/essay/f**king great piece of writing from MISSOURI, nay THE OZARKS (!) featuring, among other great observations, a racist conservationist neighbor named Bud; and the editor gives a passionate declaration of faith in the print medium that nearly made me cry tears of joy:

The Intentional is long-form because it is, because I had a magazine baby, and it was born that way. Because that is what was conceived when the world asked me how I wanted to interact with it.

Sooo, that’s inspiring. There’s also Delayed Gratification, “the world’s first slow journalism magazine” (the qualifier being a little ironic since they decry “today’s ultra-fast news cycle” that “rates being first above being right”). At any rate, their newest issue is out now, with art from Ai WeiWei on the cover.

And then, I really enjoyed magCulture’s “At Work With” interview with Weapons of Reason founder Danny Miller. When asked about the mag’s “rabble rousing name,” Miller said:

Honestly we’re not fighters or activists at all. The mag looks at some very challenging topics, but at the same time we’re not trying to be political, or even draw conclusions. We realised when researching our first cover topic – The Arctic – it was such a vast area that the best we could do was to identify the best questions to be asking. From there we could commission the right stories, and ultimately look to present the key facts that inform the debate to readers in a way that would allow them to connect the dots themselves.

Hey look, straight journalism with objective reporting. Walter Williams is shedding a tear in journalism heaven. I also like how Weapons of Reason is taking on a single, serious topic and exploring it through “past, present, and future” lenses, similar to what The Outpost does by looking at “What’s Happening, What’s Not Happening, and What Could Happen” in its magazine about the Arab world. Again, creativity from limitation. Again, awesome.

{ Creative Approaches }

The WoR interview also alluded to a limitation of eight issues. Is this a trend? Because Dirty Furniture talks of doing the same thing (one piece of furniture explored per issue…neat…weird, but neat). I can see advantages to that “finite printing” concept. Experiment, make people want it now because they can’t always get it later, achieve a specific goal and be done with it. If that’s your goal, that’s cool. Something to think about…

A few more: Stand & Deliver magazine uses core subjects (in this case, standup comedy) to spin off in other directions. Like, profile one man, reprint a children’s comic he made, publish pages from his notebooks, and write an overview of other comedians from his home country. Or, more generally, include researched articles along with photography and other cool stuff. It lets creativity flow from limitations, and that can be a very good thing.

And finally, The Guardian magazine redesign is running a weekly graphic novel series. Also, at the SEJ conference, we learned that OnEarth magazine’s next packaged publication will feature a graphic novel. I’m personally thrilled.

{ New Takes on Travel }

A genre all its own! But worthy of critique and a new way forward. First, Compass Cultura is a new digital magazine that publishes three quality pieces of travel writing for $2 each issue. Here’s what they have to say for themselves:

We don’t publish puff-pieces, round-ups or sponsored articles. We take pride in storytelling and readability.

Compass Cultura is for people who like to travel and discover. It’s for people who are sick and tired of the bubble-gum travel section of their local newspaper. It’s for people who are fed up with airy 500-word travel-and-leisure blurbs published by major media outlets.

Compass Cultura is your new alternative travel publication. Let us tell you some stories.


Steve Watson at Stack did a long interview with the magazine’s creative director. It shows a magazine reveling in digital and keeping alight the torch of quality longform storytelling. I also appreciate their business model that shirks short-term startup money in favor of sustainable funding, or “revenue-backed growth.”

And hey! Its second issue came out this week. That’s exciting. Once I get a minute I might just lay down $2 to see what it’s all about.

Finally, Unmapped offers “hidden stories from around the world, about ideas, events, places and people that have been left off the map.”

The paywall’s strict: two articles and you’re bumped out. The few articles I did read (thanks, multiple browsers) feel about as broad as the mission statement: unpolished first-person pieces, some narrative, others just descriptive. Often with good photography. A nice project, but lacking a strong identity. I think that’s hard to do when you’re featuring places from all over, but not impossible. Maybe they just need more limitations.


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