This is truly sad news, but rumors have been swirling for a few weeks so it’s not altogether surprising. While I was unsuccessful in placing a story in the Sunday Magazine (I was trying for essays), I remained hopeful that I would hit the sweet spot in 2006. This loss got me thinking:
Where else will readers find the solid long-form narrative writing on the issues and people that comprise Northeast Ohio?
Markets are drying up faster than my printer’s ink cartridges. PD Editor Doug Clifton says some of the stories will appear throughout the paper. I hope he sticks to that pledge because I’d hate to see the PD lose talented writers such as Andrea Simakis. The reality is that shrinking news holes rarely allow for the expansive narrative that was found in the Sunday Mag.
Every time news of this sort hits the streets, I begin fantasizing again about my dream publication (and my dream job of leading said dream publication). Since current city pubs are doing a miserable job, I’d love to see a monthly New Yorker-type publication in this town or a regional Salon and here’s why:
We have some serious issues to discuss that affect a wide swath of people and our current staple of pubs are doing a lackluster job at best. Most are filled with gratuitous nods to advertisers that everyone can see through. Even the advertisers are getting fatigued by the crappy advertorial that dominates each month.
We have some incredible editorial and design talent in this town. (I’ve already got an art director in mind.) I’d love to do some market research about the viability of a regional pub devoted to in-depth personality profiles, solid public affairs reporting, extensive arts, medical and business coverage (our region’s big economic engines) and an assortment of departments that include:
• nurturing a city columnist in the Roldo Bartimole vein
• look at research of all kinds happening at local universities
• food and wine coverage that’s much more than simply restaurant reviews or news of openings and closings
• personal essay column to bring in fresh voices and perspectives
The only way to be truly successful is to take a bit from existing pubs (pull in-depth reporting of PD Sunday Mag, only the best business coverage in Inside Business, and only the best arts coverage in Northern Ohio Live), add hipness of Cool Cleveland, mix in stronger editorial content presented in a visually unique way (either in print or online or both) to create something uniquely Northeast Ohio. Maybe it's a new collaboration among these pubs.
When it comes to regional pubs, I think Texas Monthly blows everyone out of the water. Of course it also has the backing of Indiana-based Emmis Communications. Skip Hollandsworth is as gifted a writer as they come and sets the bar for narrative nonfiction writing at such pubs.
But we've also got talented writers. And we’ve certainly got the stories. Now how about we get some financial backers who have the guts to put their money into something truly provocative and reflective of Northeast Ohio? I’m not talking your staidly parents’ and grandparents’ magazine (ala Cleveland and Ohio).
Take the energy of the younger population segment (young pros ages 25-45), the doggedness and intensity of the local blogosphere and the buying power of the 35-60-year-old demographic. Mix that together with this town’s incredible reporting and writing talent, illustrated with its complementary visual artistic talent and you’ve got buzz.
Well, anyway, a girl can dream...
"Where God Was Born” review
Today’s review book was listed as number three on the Local Bestsellers List. The author was at Joseph-Beth last night and I’m sorry the review couldn’t have been timed to come out before his appearance.
Here’s the text from today’s PD:
Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion
(William Morrow, $26.95) by Bruce Feiler.
Feiler is a masterful storyteller weaving his way through luminous descriptions of people, places and feelings. He takes readers on a moving and at times dangerous journey to ground zero of religion through Israel, Iraq and Iran. It's a personal quest to find meaning in his religion beyond the limitations of place and land.
With his Hebrew Bible as guide, Feiler explores the heart of civilization, visiting the ancient places that gave us prophets, kings, scientists and writers. Helping him parse the stories and their meanings is an amazing cast of theologians, adventurers and archaeologists.
As a result, his story becomes more than one man's search for God, it's also one of the great political, historical, geographical and archaeological adventures of all time.
The author's writing transports you to another time and place. When he writes of the desert you become thirsty, when he describes ruins you want to reach out and run your hand along the smooth stone surfaces. "The tunnel smelled like the inside of a tank I used as a boy to grow tadpoles into frogs -- a fetid, muddy grog that gave off the disquieting odor of evolution," he writes.
Vivid descriptions of people give you amazing insight into the author's mind. "Gabi Barkay is an archaeologist who looks like the vintage newspaper editor from Spider-Man, with a stringy black comb-over, nicotine-stained fingers and an air of seen-it-all-before."
Throughout the journey we discover what the Bible really says: God is not confined. We experience God through humanity and relationships with others.
Wendy Hoke Special to The Plain Dealer