Best Ever?


magazines.jpgGood Magazine has a story up called The 51 Best Magazines Ever. Smartest, Prettiest, Coolest, Funniest, Most Influential, Most Necessary, Most Important, Most Essential, etc. The following is our chat about it.

Mr. Mcginnis: A "top" list of any kind is surely an indicator that a magazine is no good.

Ms. Keough: Heh. I agree. I hate that stuff. They're meaningless. "top 10 albums of the year" "100 hottest women." Ugh.

Mr. Mcginnis: When you read this list, you get the impression someone is trying to get work.

Ms. Keough: Isn't the list by Graydon Carter? I think he has a job.

Mr. Mcginnis: No, he wrote the introduction. Ms. Keough, don't you read? Anyway - The sidebar insinuates that this is a list compiled through a poll of professionals in the industry. You don't pick magazines like Loaded, People or Lucky as "The Greatest" unless you're retarded or want to schmooze up to a publisher or editor or something. I mean REALLY.

Ms. Keough: Dude. Lucky? Really!?

Mr. Mcginnis: Number 44.

Ms. Keough: I mean it's not like i don't think Mad or Colors or many of the others are great.

Mr. Mcginnis: Well, I do like some of these. But I would say only 13 on their list are (or WERE) any good at all. Esquire, Details, Life, MAD, Interview, The Face, The Paris Review, Ray Gun (iffy), Rolling Stone, Sassy, Colors (also iffy).

Ms. Keough: Not Playboy? The ones I don't really know much about are: Spy, Collier's Weekly, Ramparts, Brill's Content, The Little Review, and Domus.

Mr. Mcginnis: Honestly I can't tell if I think Playboy was good, or if I like it simply for the nostalgia. The others? Ok, but not "The Greatest," whatever that even means. The problem with lists such as these, is that they inevitably reveal the inadequacies of simplification. I see two things here: trying to get work mixed with a consensus about what is great without actually considering it that much. Maybe they could just have said "Magazine We Like." Of course, I don't get the impression these people have even read or seen some of the older magazines listed. There is no passion - or enough information.

Ms. Keough: I'm getting that impression as well as I look through this again. It's like, here are some magazines everyone thinks are the greatest in their greatest periods and then here are some like Sports Illustrated (because of the football phone?) and People (for the creation of the best dressed list? is that a good thing?)

Mr. Mcginnis: Putting Ebony on because it's the first black magazine or WIRED because it represents the beginning of internet culture is really lame - they're still crap magazines. WIRED is only interesting because it showed how anyone with a computer could use quark and photoshop. You'd think that would be a good thing - but alas what you get is WIRED.

Ms. Keough: Hee. Those seemed like weak choices. And the description of the magazines couldn't be more boring.

Mr. Mcginnis: If they're going to mention things because they were "first", rather than being of quality - why not mention The Advocate? I would never write a list like this, because anyone would miss things due to social bias. These people particularly reveal their lack of knowledge on the subject.

Ms. Keough: Yeah I would never do it either. I'm partial to the "List of magazines I like right now." Are there magazines you feel like should be there that aren't or are you too opposed to the idea of the list in general to offer your own additions and subtractions?

Mr. Mcginnis: The one that came to my mind first when reading this list was Look, then I thought of After Dark. Many of their "honorable mentions," like Dynamite, Harpers and Art Forum are far superior to many of the magazines listed. Dynamite was way cooler than Tiger Beat. Oh - and my favorite magazine in recent memory was Nest. I might write a list of what I thought were greats, but not THE greatest. This need to list "the greatest" is really quite adolescent. Lots of things are great, for lots of different reasons. I'd rather spend my time telling people about things they never heard of, rather than telling them how great something is.

Ms. Keough: Totes. I forgot about Dynamite.

Mr. Mcginnis: A big problem with this list is that it seems compiled solely from the perspective of writers and editors.

Ms. Keough: I know.

Mr. Mcginnis: A great magazine is one in which editing and art direction are flawlessly in sync.

Ms. Keough: Agreed. The whole package has to work together.

Mr. Mcginnis: Editors and writers often mistake text for substance and visuals for surface. This manner of thinking inevitably leads to a poor magazine.

Ms. Keough: This list seems to be a bit name driven, like "edited by this famous person," "contributors include all these great people."

Mr. Mcginnis: Lots of magazines have great writing and great photography - hell, in the biggest magazines it's all the same people anyway - but it's how it all works together. That's the art, and I think these guys are missing that in their reasoning of greatness. Vanity Fair is the perfect example of a magazine filled with talented people - yet it's still not a good magazine.

Ms. Keough: Elaborate.

Mr. Mcginnis: Well... there are good articles, pretty photographs, etc. BURIED amongst the ads and celebrity gaudiness.

Ms. Keough: Yeah, I buy it one once in a while but it mostly just annoys me and I can't focus.

Mr. Mcginnis: Buy?

Ms. Keough: Like in an airport, when I didn't bring a book.

Mr. Mcginnis: I read it ONLY when found in the trash.

Ms. Keough: Ha

Mr. Mcginnis: Neighbors throw it out, so i grab it.

Ms. Keough: That's handy

Mr. Mcginnis: Hmm, maybe that's OUR next list. "Greatest Magazines To Throw in the Trash."

Comments (6)

I read the Good list too. A couple of agreements and disagreements with their list and your retorts.

1) Wired
I was just old enough (or precocious enough) to read Wired right at the tail end of its pre-Conde Nast days. It was a great magazine, long pieces on technology, culture and the messy intersection of both of them. Very few mainstream mags was doing this at the time.... Just look how clueless the PC mags were, or newsweeklies and serious mags about the internet.

2) Brill's Content
As a media junkie the death of Brill's Content was very very sad for me. The mag was like throwing fuel onto the nascent fire of media interest in my very young soul.

3) The omission of Harper's
Wow.... how did they miss this. When I ask journalism/magazine types everywhere Harper's is one of the five titles that come up consistently.

Anyways, keep up the great works guys. Oh, check out the new Spy book if you want to learn about Graydon's earlier work. It's much better than the burning wreck of a ship that is Vanity Fair.

I've been thinking about a list of magazines that could try harder. You know, the one's you really want to like for whatever reason but just can't bring yourself to buy or the magazines that could do with a bit of a shove.

e.g. Diplo [ ] is a mag that constantly annoys me, mainly because it says 'design' on the cover but looks like a dog's breakfast, but anything that mooshes design and politics together must have some sort of potential.


Domus was good. It was an Italian art & architecture magazine. I read a bunch of issues when I was researching for my dissertation.

I read the same list and was shocked about a lot of the magazines they picked and didn't pick. Like The Advocate... come on! That magazine and George were two that really were able to change national dialog. I guess Ebony was important, but I don't think it was more important than the other two. If they're just throwing a magazine on the list to include the black press, why not something like Essence or its short-lived rival Suede.


Where's EMIGRE!?


Where's OMNI?!

(okay, not Omni...)

Omni totes ruled! We were discussing that one on the side.

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