The List: Ranking news magazines

Joel Oliphint
joliphint@columbusalive.com

“Artistically MAD,” the Billy Ireland exhibit celebrating seven decades of art in MAD Magazine (see Dan Gearino's feature on page 30), got us thinking about magazines in general. So we thought we'd take a look at some of our favorite magazines at the opposite end of the spectrum from MAD: news magazines. To qualify for this list, the magazine needed to have a print edition, because who gets their news via the worldwide web, anyway? Here's a sampling, in roughly ascending order.

Newsweek

After ending its print edition in 2012, the weekly news magazine returned to paper under new ownership in 2014, but it probably should have just stayed dead. The Manhattan DA is currently investigating Newsweek Media Group for fraud. Kudos, though, to theNewsweek journalists who reported on their own parent company.

TIME

The great thing about magazines is that they can take people and issues you think you know, then take a deeper dive into them to reveal all sorts of context and complexities that lead to a more complete, compelling picture. I've always thoughtTIME fell short in this area, at least in the modern era. Generally, theNew York Times seems to provide just as much depth and context on a daily basis.

Vanity Fair

It's become overrun by ads, and the focus on fashion doesn't particularly appeal to me, but there's still great feature writing in here.

The Economist

I'm less interested in this long-running, London-based weekly news mag's focus on financial matters, but for those who lean more toward theWall Street Journal than theTimes or thePost, this might be a good fit.

Mother Jones

Very few publications have done as much for social justice asMother Jones. It's a modern-day muckraker.

Pacific Standard

LikeMother Jones' daughter, this 10-year-old, California-based magazine (formerlyMiller-McCune) does particularly well with environmental issues.

Harper's

If a monthly magazine has been around since 1850, you should probably check it out. It's the kind of magazine that both English and Journalism majors can agree on. Plus, subscribing gets you access to the massive, unrivaledHarper's archive.

GQ,Esquire

If you can get past the clash of cologne-scented ads, these two monthly magazines still publish impressive, deeply researched feature stories marked by writing styles more entertaining than most.

New York Magazine

Now biweekly,New York Magazine is flashier, younger and more unruly thanThe New Yorker. Come for Frank Rich's essays, stay for David Marchese's Q&As.

Wired

The first print publication to figure out that writing about tech and the internet still means writing about people. Bonus points for groundbreaking design and layouts every month.

The Atlantic

The Atlantic has figured out how to stay more relevant thanHarper's without sacrificing the quality of its features. Just about everyAtlantic cover story is worth your time.

The New Yorker

The comics are almost never funny, and the tone can be snooty, but the level of writing and reporting in this weekly magazine is unparalleled. Many of the features take months to report, and yet, every week, there it is (not that putting out a weekly print publication is hard or anything). The only real problem withThe New Yorker is the guilt you feel as unread issues pile up. It's too good to just toss, but who among us can keep up?