Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hats Off to Rolling Stone

Hats off to Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine. For years, he's been pummelled in some quarters--deservedly so, I think--for allowing what was once a journalistic icon (at least to some) to descend into a cartoon of itself. For several years, he got lost in trying to stay ahead of the so-called "laddie mag" wave, a dumbing-down of men's mags first popularized by Details Magazine and British-owned Dennis Publishing. It seemed he had given up and thrown in the towel on serious journalism to accompany his music fanzine.

But a funny thing happened on the way down the drain. A couple years ago, about the time he got caught up in headlines over his complicated personal life, Wenner seems to have gotten a second wind. I wrote about it a little a couple of years ago, in a piece in Northern Ohio Live (no longer online) about author and Cleveland native Evan Wright. Wright's Iraq war reporting for Rolling Stone won a National Magazine award in 2004, and was later turned into a fine book entitled Generation Kill. I think that honor played at least a small role in helping Wenner get back to his roots. The L.A.-based Wright moved on from the magazine (I hear he's hard at work on another book, more about which later), but Rolling Stone did well again in this year's National Magazine Awards.

But this astoundingly well-done cover piece in the current issue, written by Princeton historian Sean Willentz (whose work has graced The New Republic for many years), may be the new high water mark. Just make some time this weekend to read this piece. I promise it'll be well worth your while.

Some Parenting/Family Columns. After receiving a nice comment the other day on an earlier post from a reader who found this site after having read one of my columns in Cleveland Family mag, it dawned on me that I haven't linked to any of those columns in quite some time. I suppose I got out of the habit because a). I stopped doing them monthly about a year and a half ago (I'm now in a comfortable every-other-month rotation, with my friend Jill Zimon sounding off on the mom's perspective in the other months), and also because the publication's website is so butt-ugly, and I kept assuming they'd eventually dress it up a bit so as to show off the writing a bit better (the print design is actually pretty nice, so I should really just link to the PDF versions). But in the end, the obvious conclusion was this: who the hell really cares? So here they are: click here for the current column, here for February's, here for last November's, and here for the September column. I also ruminated on Madonna's zero-TV policy here last summer. And while you're at it, why not check out some of Jill's columns (here, here, here and here), as well as her lively blog and her personal site. Now, after having reviewed all that material, reading it word for word, how are your eyes feeling? Need a little Visine?


At 6:05 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Why, thank you, John. That was unexpected. I, of course, have the hard copies clogging up the little spare surface area that exists under my desk, you know, so I can remember that I used to write publishable stuff - before I started blogging, that is. ;)

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anne said...

My eyes are a good kind of tired.
Very eclectic topics--I'll soon find out what my dream state makes of them. Good night!

At 3:54 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

I think you're right about Rolling Stone and Wenner. I've only recently come back to the magazine and I found the piece on Jack Abramoff to be every bit as good and insightful as the journalism that first hooked me in the early '70s.

(I can dream again of being on the cover of the Rolling Stone.)

I'm looking forward to reading the Wilentz piece.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Anne, you're a trooper to plow through all that stuff. Good for you. I really ought to take you to lunch as a thank you for being such a hard-core reader (seriously, to take me up on the offer just email me at And Jill, I do hope you get back to thinking in terms of publishable stuff, per the conversational thread we've recently had on Jeff's, about whether blogging can get in the way of making time for other writing. And Jeff, glad you've been re-engaging with RS. I never picked up the habit originally, back in the day, but I do find it interesting now.

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anne said...

Anyone who reads your blog has to be impressed by your consistently thought-provoking postings. I'd like to nominate you for President, or at least for mayor of Cleveland! The amount of info you manage to review and share is amazing--NPR and now your blog are two musts in my daily routine. Timing is a bit of a problem right now but a future lunch, on me, is a great idea.

Yes, I probably do need Visine to get the "read" out. :) No pain, no gain, right?!


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