Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to Africa

Vogue's Anna Wintour better watch out. First the world fell in love with French Vogue's Carine Roitfield. Then Russian Vogue editor Aliona Doletskaya was accidentally introduced at a party as the next editor of American Vogue. Now, Italian Vogue's Franca Sozzani is establishing herself as the Bono of the Vogue empire.

The fashion industry has long been under fire for the lack of diversity on runways, so Sozzani took the gauntlet and released an all-black issue of Italian Vogue this July. The special issue was a global hit, even going into reprint. Now she's dedicating November's L'Uomo Vogue, the men's magazine which she is also editor, to the continent of Africa.

Forest Whitaker and Bernard-Henri Lévy guest-edited the issue which will focus more on ideas rather than make an aesthetic statement about Africa. "Fashion is not only about clothes," Sozzani told the Washington Post. According to her, it is about the notion of identity.

Unlike a recent spread in India's Vogue that caused worldwide outrage when real-life peasants were posed with thousand dollar handbags, Sozzani has avoided using models all together. "I think it's ridiculous to see a 16-year-old wearing clothes he'll never afford at his age," she said. Instead of models, Quincy Jones, John Legend, Matt Damon, and Michelle Obama among others will be photographed in their own clothes.

The 40 year old L'Uomo Vogue's circulation is only 80,000, but those readers are the ones who make the big decisions in the fashion industry. Without having to pander to commercial whims, Sozzani has been able to take chances with her magazine that Anna Wintour has never done. And while some may be suspicious that Sozzani is simply trying to capitalize on the success of her All Black Issue, half of the November L'Uomo Vogue's ad revenue will go to Africa-related charities. Who says fashion is only skin deep?

Gossip Folks: i-D

A little birdie told me that i-D just shot a spread starring the adorable Chanel Iman at the Chanel Mobile Museum in New York. He says it won't hit news stands until May, when the installation, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, hits London.

Reinventing the News: Steve Garfield

Steve Garfield is the classic example of the 21st century journalist--or should I say 21st century blogger? As he told my class last week, he calls himself a videoblogger, but more so, he is a business model for any average journo with a camera and a computer. Due to his aptitude for utilizing the latest technology, Garfield has reported for RocketBoom and The UpTake as well as his own site, and in addition now teaches at Boston University.

Garfield's videos are not technically impressive. They are rough and sometimes unedited, almost always amateur looking. But what makes Garfield special is that every opportunity is a possible video reporting opportunity for him--whether it be catching a politician on the street with his cell phone or documenting his wife making an unremarkable comment while watching TV. Is all of his content necessary? No. But blogging is often about quantity, not quality, and his openness to technology is a feat in itself.

One of his most enviable techie tools is a Nokia cell phone with video camera that through Qik.com allows him to simultaneous upload live video from his phone for the world to see. It's amazing, really, to see a cell phone instantly connect you to an audience.

Garfield, like many journalists, are hoping to creating a brand with his or her name. It's no longer about the institution of the newspaper you work for. Now it's all about you. His main domain, stevegarfield.com, links to four of his different blogs as well as his work featured on other websites. Like a passable singer with the ability to chose the right producers to score a number one chart-topper, Garfield picks the right technology for his work through a new medium, and so far it's a hit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We Are a Part of the MagNation

Australian magazine megastore Magnation has created a test to help you find your next favorite magazine. Take it here and find your new monthly obsession!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reinventing the News: Fall Behind

Click to view a gallery of the Arboretum

New England's autumns have inspired countless artists and writers for their majestic beauty and rich colors. Robert Frost devoted an entire collection of poems to the season, so it's no surprise this time of year has locals taking part in regional traditions. Along with drinking apple cider and going apple picking, many Bostonites make a point to watch the leaves change at the Arnold Arboretum.

The arboretum, located in Jamaica Plain, has hundreds of different trees in its collection. Designed by landscaper Frederick Olmsted, most famous for New York's Central Park, the arboretum has 15,441 individual plants belonging to 4,099 families in its collection. The arboretum is privately endowed as a department of Harvard University, but the City of Boston maintains responsibility for water fountains, boundaries and policing.

"I grew up in Florida around palm trees, so it's really beautiful for me to see the leaves change," says 22-year-old Joan Dubinski. "I've heard a lot of people talk about the arboretum and how beautiful it is, but this is my first time here." She added, "Even though we're all cold, going to the arboretum and drinking a hot drink seems like the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday."

Cassandra Nicholson has spent a lot of time in the arboretum over the years. "I live in JP [Jamaica Plain], so I like to pretend like the arboretum is just my front yard. I've been coming every fall since I moved here four years ago."

Mid-October is the best time to see the foliage in the park, so don't miss your opportunity to take part in a Boston tradition. The Arnold Arboretum is located off the Forest Hills stop off the Orange Line and open everyday from sunrise to sunset.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Profits

For my parent's generation, the ultimate culture-defining magazine will always be Rolling Stone. Even for my grandparents. When my Nana found out about my first magazine internship, she congratulated me, saying that she heard the publication "was just as good as Rolling Stone." But for me, Rolling Stone has long been irrelevant and irritable.

So as economic hardships increasingly face the magazine industry (CosmoGirl just folded!), Rolling Stone has announced it would shrink the mag from its trademark large format to the typical Berliner size of most magazines. The reformat, which also includes thicker, glossy paper, debuts October 30 with Obama on the cover.

This isn't the first time RS has changed formats. It first published as a tabloid-size newspaper in 1967 before printing on a four-color press in 1973. Finally, it switched to magazine-quality paper and its iconic 10-by-12 inch size in 1981. But that large-format has lent the magazine a sense of nostalgia that may have stood out to certain suburban teenagers at chain bookstores looking at other music magazine (but who cares about music anymore?)

But in today's online era, it's arguable whether size of print may matter anymore. The Rolling Stone brand still holds prominence, with circulation remaining stable at nearly 1.45 million since 2006, and its website is still a popular destination for music news.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stone Cold

Model Lara Stone first made an impact on me in V Magazine's "Home Improvement" shoot. Then I started noticing her as the girl with the horrific runway walk. Then I began to look out for the model with the gap in between her teeth. Soon I didn't stop seeing her nude in spreads, with her big boobs (compared to the average waif model). Lara Stone is not your typical model--in fact, she's the anti-model, and she's my favorite.

Lara is the cover star for the November issue of i-D, a perfect pairing for the fashion-forward magazine with attitude. As my good friend tells me, Lara Stone's sexiness could turn my friend gay, and turn gay men straight, so it's no surprise the tag line reads, "Yes, I think I'm sexy." The article explains her signature Frankenstein walk down runways ("her feet are a whole size smaller than the sample size") and her aptitude for body-baring shoots:
"Better naked than wearing really tight corsets. I don't put myself in situations that I feel uncomfortable with, you know, someday my children are going to see this. My tits are not really that big."

Lara, who had a rebellious streak that got her kicked out of school, still listens to her parents:
"Everyday my mum looks at style.com and fashionspot.com to see my pictures. The first time she saw me naked she sent this whole long big email, that was sooo sweet. She had seen the pictures from Purple by Inez and Vinoodh of me, butt naked, stood in the studio. She was like 'Lara, if you don't want to do this, you can just say no, you can always move back home with us.' "
On a sad note, the i-D editorial spread, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," features the late male model Randy Johnston alongside Stone. Johnston, notably starring in the Dior Homme Fall 2007 campaign, died under unknown circumstances on October 11 at the age of 20. It's always sad to see someone young die, made more tragic when they are young and beautiful.

And to keep your fashion taste buds going through October, be sure to check out this month's Numero with two incredible spreads: Siri Tollerod evoking a creepy doll-yielding Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" and Edita Vilkeviciute in the best recent example of proper photoshop effects in "Interférence."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reinventing the News: Radio's Bright Future

Down here on earth, print reporters, editors and lovers are in hysterics about the death of the printed word. Journalism is over as we know it. But wait. Up above, in the airwaves, radio is doing better than ever.

Last week, WBUR Radio's Director of New Media Robin Lubbock spoke to my class about radio's success in the face of new media. Since millions of people are still stuck in their cars during the daily commute, the audience for quality radio has not changed a bit. In fact, with stations like WBUR entering into online content, it's even possible radio's audience has grown from local to (selectively) worldwide.

I once worked at a company that provided the website template and content for public radio stations nationwide. Some of the stations uploaded their own shows to the site, but the majority of them stuck to the bare-bones template and AP content. WBUR is an exception. Their online content rivals that of the Boston Globe's, and it seems Lubbock doesn't stop thinking of new ways to expand with today's technology.

What struck me as timely, given the radio station's successful online foray, is if WBUR will go from a popular news radio station with a great website to one day a legitimate online source that also happens to operate a local radio station. This question can also be raised about magazines: could magazines one day be a comprehensive website and blog that just happens to publish a round-up of its best content on a monthly, seasonal or even annual basis?

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm Just Like Nancy Pelosi!

It's official--Nancy Pelosi and I are total twins!

The Speaker of the House opened the 2008 American Magazine Conference on October 4 with a keynote speech and a brief Q&A. Pelosi confessed she's an "addict of magazines"--just like me! She went on to thank the 400 magazine industry professionals in attendance, saying: "Thank you for the information. Thank you for the entertainment. Thank you for the diversion. Thank you for the strengthening of our democracy you all provide."

The conference, which ended last week, unsurprisingly centered on the fears of print dying and speculation of how magazines should move into other media. The tone, however, was generally upbeat, with most of the speakers excited for the future. It seems fitting that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bridge between camera-ready celebrity and outspoken politician, also spoke at the conference.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Reinventing the News: Wired Journalist

Some view the online frontier with fear, an unknown entity that will surely threaten journalism as we know it. Others, though, view it with excitement. For those of us that fall in the latter, there's Wired Journalist, a new tool for online multimedia journalism and social networking. I was easily able to share photos of Boston shoppers spending money despite fears of an economic crisis. Along with joining my college's group, I joined a Blogging Group--imagine that! Wired Journalist has the potential to be a great tool for up-and-coming journalists using all the Internet has to offer, but it seems its membership is still low. I think for it to be successful, it needs to be an active community of people posting projects and giving critiques and spreading ideas.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Evolution VS. Creationism

Blender's logo evolution

I grew up in a Southern city with a raging debate a handful of years ago as to whether evolution or "creationism" should be taught in public school biology classes. The controversy gained national media attention and ended ignorantly with evolution being completely overlooked in classes and an unsightly sticker smacked in the front of each textbook stating that "Evolution is just a theory."

In the case of magazines, though, the term "evolution" is favored. Instead of citing a "redesign," magazines make the case that their product is simply evolving, as to retain readers and not scare off advertisers. Of course, magazines are constantly changing, but we can only hope that each change strengthens the magazine, not brings it one step closer to extinction.

In an interview with the Society of Publication Directors blog, Blender Magazine's new creative director Dirk Barnett explained the sometimes politically-correct process of redesigning a magazine:
At the beginning, then-CEO Kent Brownridge told me to never call the redesign a "redesign," but rather an "evolution" of the magazine. I had been hired to redesign the magazine, but when I got there, the terminology shifted slightly so we didn't scare advertisers into thinking we weren't happy with the product. I began by slowly leaking [the new typeface] Locator onto the pages, and within 2 issues had a soft "evolution" in place until the new logo was finished, at which point I would roll out a complete "evolution".
But when all is said and done and when all the stars are in the right place, like it seems was the case for Blender, a new redesign can remake a magazine into something better, not new. You can read the rest of the interview with the award-winning Barnett here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New Magazine Alert: Tar Magazine

A new art and fashion biannual from Tar Art Media, Tar Magazine is set to launch this month with a cover created by the one and only Julian Schnabel with a raised logo in his childish handwriting. Tar Art was formed in 2006 by Blackbook Magazine founder Evan Schindler and Diesel marketing man Maurizio Marchiori to be a "media company with a message."

The magazine aims to be sustainable with--guess it--tar. It will be published on a combination of recycled and eco-paper (meaning a tree is planted for every one cut down). In the magazine's prototype, every page had a swatch of tar on it, creating a "visceral experience," says Schindler.

Purple Magazine's editor-at-large Bill Powers will act as editor-at-large of Tar as well, and October's contributors include Matthew Barney, Juergen Teller, and Terry Richardson. What might be most striking of all, the back cover of the 300-page debut issue is not an ad, but instead a "Vote Obama" drawing by artist Nate Lowman in the vein of Warhol's "Vote McGovern" silkscreen.

Reinventing the News: Link Journalism

Sarah Palin is stressing me out. During what must be the most-watched VP debate in the last twenty years, Palin evaded the questions and put on downhome mannerisms, with winking and everything, AND YET the support she receives is still stronger than ever. Did they watch the same debate as I did? How do we make sense of Thursday's spectacle?

There was no doubt a lot of pressure was on Palin to perform. Michael from BunkoSquad (Technorati authority: 11) gives "props to the McCain campaign for having the good sense to send that TalkingPointsBot" in her place but noticed that her " 'maverick' button got stuck in the 'on' position." Also recognizing Palin as a fembot, Sean at BlueMassGroup (Technorati authority: 195) thinks that the only thing impressive about Palin is her speaking abilities "given her short time on the national stage."

Others find the debate an unfair playing field. Steven Jens, of Jens 'n' Frens (Technorati authority: 1), first finds Gwen Ifill's role as moderator as a "blatant conflict of interest," going on to say the media bias of this election cycle has been "pretty remarkable."

"Palin had the last laugh," according to John from the Beacon Street Journal (Technorati authority: 9), who thinks the media has been out to end her electoral chances from the beginning. John thinks Palin won America's hearts "by her speech, her mannerisms, her temperament; by her accomplishments, her belief system, and her homespun charm."

Susan at BelowBoston.com (Technorati authority: 15) agrees she has charm, but thinks it's all manufactured. "She has certainly absorbed the language and spin of the past 3 decades that the conservative idealogy [sic] has cultivated so assiduously through it's vast array of 'Think Tanks'."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Conde's Grand Addition

Okay, so we're in an economic crisis and the last thing a logical publisher would do is put out a new fashion magazine, right?

WRONG. Pop Magazine founder Katie Grand has been tapped by corporate magazine megahouse Condé Nast for a new biannual fashion mag, beginning in March. Still unnamed, the publication will be a larger format and provide Grand with Condé's big budgets for the first time. It's a shift for Condé Nast, known for straight-laced Vogue, but the publisher still promises the magazine will have Grand's "edgy and experimental" style.

Grand was first recognized working on the launch of the never-disappointing Dazed & Confused, then moved on to the ever-influential The Face until 2001. She is most famous, though, for founding the fun and energetic Pop magazine in 2000. All of these are British glossies--will Grand be leaving Londontown for NYC?

It's very exciting to combine Grand's grand ideas with Condé's grand finances, but I hope she won't be trading in a bit of her soul for this new job. Grand told the Guardian, "I'm really looking forward to building up a new magazine from scratch again - a fresh start is always fun, and we have lots of ideas we can't wait to start working on."

Below is Pop Magazine's debut issue cover with her original Letter from the Editor. To read it at the Premiere Issue Project, click here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reinventing the News with the Boston Globe

Journalists become journalists because they like words--not numbers. And their aversion to numbers soon becomes a fear. The longer they don't use math, the more they think they can't compute numbers. Soon even trying to figure out how much you owe for tip at a restaurant becomes a challenge. But statistics and percentages are used powerfully in news reports every single day. This week, Boston Globe reporter Matt Carroll spoke to my online journalism class explaining how the newsroom thinks he is a math wizard simply for doing basic Microsoft Excel functions, and I'll take a look at three databases that could make for news stories.

My eye first jumps to the Boston homicide map, an interactive platform displaying the location and frequency of murders for 2007. I zoomed into the area I live, known to be unsafe in certain sectors, to find that in the last year there were very few murders. Creepily, though, the map combines the information on those killed and even in some cases their picture on a clickable map item. Using this map, if a large number of homicides happened in one area, a reporter could put a face on these crimes and bring them together to start a safety initiative.

Next I looked at gay marriages in Mass. for 2005. Obviously, Provincetown was up there with 660.4 wedded gay couples per 100 heterosexual couples, but other unheard of towns like Leverett (150) and Pelham (200) had high rates of gay marriage. Then I looked at Real Estate Value Estimates to see how these town's real estate values compared with towns that had low rates of gay marriage. For these two databases, if the evidence was there, a reporter could make a connection between real estate prices either rising due to the growing amount of gay couples or the gentrification these wedded couples could be bringing to these small towns (now just speculation). So if you chose to be a journalist to get out of crunching numbers, you're out of luck. The future, I'm told, is database journalism.