Reading Magazines…. While we still can

Ah the joy of finding a new magazine with great articles. I have found a new love – long form narrative journalism.

It started on my trip to San Francisco from work last December. The apartment I was staying in had a few hundred New Yorker magazines piled up. On weekday nights I could walk around San Fran and experience the city, but I didn’t want to splurge or get mugged, and was quite happy putting my feet up and reading. So I got stuck into those New Yorker magazines.

Earlier, I had read the odd article from the New Yorker online  – but reading a full magazine is a completely different experience. There is a flow to it that you can never get from a website. I was hooked.

But New Yorker magazines are – well – quite US (if not NY) centered. On returning to London I started looking for British magazines which were similar. Unfortunately there is no straight replacement for the New Yorker in London. The closest magazines which I have read are Granta, The London Review of Books, New Statesman and, my favourite, The Spectator.

I never thought of myself as having enough time (to read all the issues) or money to have a subscription to any of these UK based magazines – feeling more content to buy the odd issue when I was traveling – something which I didn’t do earlier.

So what is so different between what I can read in a random magazine and what I read here, you ask? The articles are longer, and more thought out. The opinions are well formed and its not just reporting verbatim what happened the previous day. I was tired of reading regurgitated articles of current affairs in newspapers and the opinion-less and shallow reporting on all the TV channels with their special correspondent saying things which I could have said 30 minutes before them looking at Twitter. I don’t want to know what happened – I want to understand what happened. And I don’t want to just understand something, I want to feel enthralled by someone’s personal thoughts on a subject and their experiences. Like a thorough book review on a book on Bhutto, or, something closer to home (for me), arguments about misogyny at the debating club of the Glasgow University Union.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 11.58.50 PMIt was all well and good to get great reporting and opinions for the US and UK, but lets face it, life is a bit boring here compared to India. After getting tired of having to search long and hard to find balanced opinions about India from blogs, I was surprised to find that there was a magazine which did long-form journalism in India. “The Caravan” has been my tube companion for the last week or so. For  £0.69 I get a 115 page magazine on my phone and a couple of long articles for free as well. The quality of the writing is worth a lot more than that.

But it isn’t meant for the masses. Most people don’t have the patience to go through a 30-page character analysis of Narendra Modi which talks of his beginnings and tries to understand why he thinks the way he does. When the article length is that long, you tend to build an image of characters and stories which are far more rounded, respecting even “the villain”’s rise. I think this type of journalism is something which is always in short supply and is accentuated by the wash-rinse-repeat (unto death) method used by TV journos nowadays – the same story, the same video clip, being repeated 100 times over the course of a day.

Reporting things in this detail takes time. From what I could understand it took months of work to write articles like the one on Modi and this one on Arindam Choudary.

I feel print journalism is dying a slow death around the world. Blogs are all well and good, power to the common man to write whatever he wants sounds good. But no blogger has the time to dive deep and investigate something the way a reporter can. But while I ponder on the sad demise of print journalism around the world, I am also loving every minute of its life.