The Dartmouth Observer
Saturday, August 31, 2002
On the Topic of The Nation:
The Nation tends to run very serious pieces. When your aim is broad social change on all fronts, rather than basic acceptance of the insider consensus, than you probably are going to be less snide and do a lot more informing, and therefore be less 'readable.' Why talk about 'patio men' when the government allows E.Coli to poison our hamburgers? I suppose political magazines have to compete with the likes of Entertainment Weekly. For what it is worth, I think that having some humor and style in a politic paper is essential: take The Common Share in The Dartmouth Free Press, which I modeled on the Notebook section of the magazine I had worked at two summers ago, The New Republic. Bridging the gap between writing an informative and an enjoyable piece is not always easy, but it should be done. I would be happy if The Nation sometimes had a more lively style. For example, it could do so much more with its In Fact section.
I'm not sure how much its place on the ideological spectrum plays a part in a magazine's attitude. It is a tribute to The Weekly Standard, founded only within in the last ten years, that they have achieved such success. National Review, on the other hand, reads not like homework, but archival texts from the British Empire. So if that LA Weekly article was trying to make humor and quality a left versus right issue, it should also look the history of individual publications. The Standard, is largely modeled on, and, inherented several writers from, The New Republic. Do not assume that verve originated on the right. Though some also feel that the liberal American Prospect has a tendency to veer towards the wonkish side. Do conservatives just have a more simple message where they do not feel they need to go into as much detail? It does seems easier to write an article about 'nothing at all' if you do not care about changing a whole of stuff.
Working at The Nation has lead me to really respect the amount of information and research that goes into their articles. I think The Nation, for better or worse, is a magazine whose style is largely driven by its writers, not its editors. (By the way, though I loved the cover illustration, I did not like Richard Goldstein's article in The Nation, but probably for somewhat different reasons than John's, but I will not get into that here.)
P.S. Amiri Barksdale '96, mentioned in a previous post, also works at The Nation and is a great guy to smoke cigarettes with and talk about marxism.