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big mac post mortem

This Magazine Staff

Well, okay, since it’s new, and folks are talking about it—let’s talk about it. I bought the new-look Maclean’s and have read through it. Here’s my quick post mortem:

Cover design: grippy, newsy enough. I like the maple leaf apostrophe. I think the lower corner flap fold thingy looks quite cheesy—it’s not the principle of it, it’s the execution. Seriously though, the boxes running across the top of the banner look like PageMaker circa 1994. Three out of four of those boxes reference stories from the United States (so what? I’m not judging; I’m just noting).

Cover story: Weak. Not that privacy is not important, but the fact that anyone can buy cell phone records on the Net is not a feature length story. It’s a blog entry. This story might already be over—one email from someone in power at a cell phone company and the hole gets plugged. Strangely, this is not my major complaint about this story (some people might have something to fear from having their cell records found out, and so might be interested). What is with the photos accompanying this story? Are you serious? Faux-surveillance shots of our “privacy czar” Jennifer Stoddart on her way to lunch on a particularly blustery day in Ottawa. The shot on page 27 that shows the windblown Stoddart behind a tree branch is a joke, right? And then twenty shots of her crossing a street? God, will she ever wear that gigantic scarf in public again?

Maureen Dowd interview: Linda Frum pretty much stays out of Dowd’s way and let’s her write her own interview, which is wise I suppose. It is a little embarrassing how often Dowd’s answers begin with some version of “Um, actually, no…”

7 Days section: Doesn’t the G&M have a new section called Seven, or something like that? This is a seriously troubled part of the magazine—but it’s not Maclean’s’ fault at all. This section addresses the question—are newsweeklies relevant in the age of online media and blogs? The answer here can only be no. Schwarzeneggers fall from grace in California feels soooo old here. On the other hand, if the magazine can manage to concentrate all its classic newspapery punning in this section (Muscled Out, for the Arnie story—the head of Air Canada “piloting” the airline through “considerable turbulence”—yikes), I will be able to skip it entirely.

Paul Wells and Peter Mansbridge: Write the same column, except Paul Wells writes it way better. I’m a bad judge of this because I never understood why Canada needs a weekly column from our nightly newsguy. I like Mansbridge a lot, on The National.

Barbara Amiel: Has nothing to say of any relevance to the riots in France. An unskilled precis of French radical history and a few news reports from the week past. Empty space.

Actual lengthy news coverage—Excellent. The heart and soul of the magazine. John Geddes piece on the inevitable election. Michael Petrou’s piece on the rioting in France—and his piece on Tony Blair. Great writing, great reporting. More please.

The Back pages section: I like it. It’s lively, but is not afraid to go in depth. A book about Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, rather than the latest frantic roman a clef? That’s a good, brave choice.

Recommended section: The nearly naked girl is almost a nostalgiac tribute to the old People section that promised adolescent boys of a certain generation their best shot at nudity in the staid Canadian household. Beyond that, this is a throw-away page.

The End (back page column): … is just plain weird. I feel terrible for Gordon Sanderson and all who knew and loved him, but that is just a strange way to close out a newsmagazine.

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