I've spent a while browsing three publications this weekend. The first and third I'm sort of familiar with, but the second one I know very little about.
The first magazine is the Sunday Times supplement from 31/10/10 entitled, rather enigmatically, 'Culture'. This magazine is a mixture of reviews, profiles, general articles and television listings. The range of subject is very wide, in this edition ranging from profiles on upcoming stars like the film actress Lyndsey Marshal to 'high' cultural figures, such as the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. The writing style throughout the magazine varies according to the individual reporter's voice, but, generally, the writing style is considered and conversational, using plain, simple English but long, multi-clause sentences. The emphasis, it seems, is on attracting as wide a readership as possible, with A.A. Gill's review of the week's television setting the tone.
The Observer magazine, from the same day, sets a very different tone - from the clueless man with his DIY tools on the cover to it's signalled articles 'The Crisis in Men', a piece on Jon Bon Jovi's friendship with Barak Obama, and Nigel Slater's recipe for the 'perfect pizza', this appears to be a magazine for men approaching the ubiquitous mid-life crisis! A style section for women hints at wider inclusion, but even this article leads with an article on coats for men - that's it girls, keep the poor old buggers warm this winter! Like 'Culture' magazine, the style is chatty and informative, suggesting a cosy relationship with the reader, although I'm not so sure whether the reader would own up to it.
My third publication is the often bewildering but very focused The Stage (26/10/10). This is a 'trade' newspaper that mixes news articles concerning the world of entertainment with gossip and reviews current within the industry. The styles within the paper range from straight-forward reportage, such as Alistair Smith's front page article on the withdrawal of funding to smaller productions in the capital (there's a pun in there), to Maria Hodson's (an actual actress's) informal diary of her time spent among fellow thesps at the Edinburgh Fringe (I think). There is a genuine feeling of community in this paper, seen in the almost languid style of Smith's reporting - he uses four sentences in the first three paragraphs! The paragraphs are very short, but there is no sensationalism here, which is slightly disappointing considering the target audience. The major players in the saga are also given extreme prominence, as many of them are directly quoted - one at length, in the context of the piece. Smith knows his reader very well indeed.
Likewise, 'Culture' magazine seems to be a well-positioned publication, coming as it does with a review magazine of current stories and a style magazine aimed solely at younger women, it seems to understand its own position as a supplement. The magazine is clearly designed to be read at leisure throughout the week, and it promotes 'culture' within well-defined but fairly broad boundaries, considering that it comes free with the Times. I have just finished reading the article on the new Geoffrey Rush film The King's Speech, which promotes rather than criticises the film but provides some interesting historical information that makes me want to see it. It is difficult to think how this publication could be improved.
The Observer magazine is a completely different beast. It is the first time that I've read it, so it might not be a typical issue. The writing style is engaging and the articles largely interesting, but it does seem to have something of an identity crisis. Emma John's piece on Gabby Logan, for example, often slips into man speak - ' a dream gig presenting Champions League football'. But, it claims its validity by purporting to show how this busy working mum overcame sexism in the industry to make it as a sports presenter - good for her, we cry! The pictures of Gabby, however, show her sprawled out on the floor and staring dolefully into the camera. Irony, perhaps? Well, the picture of her on the next page does show her in a leopard print dress, only it's cut down to the navel and she's on the arm of her Rugby player boyfriend - a perfect celebrity couple. Ironic or patronising? I've seen Gabby Logan on television many times and these images do not truly represent her. The Observer magazine needs to decide whether it's aimed at young men and women, or just ageing lads.