Jon Friedman, media editor of CBS MarketWatch, was in town last week to have breakfast with Los Angeles editor Kit Rachlis (pictured) and to ponder the magazine (where I contribute). His column posted today finds some things to like and some he thinks could improve. He called a recent story on Magic Johnson "everything you'd hope to read in a profile" but thought a piece on Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times needed a stronger point of view. As a city magazine here, Friedman argues, Los Angeles should stand out more against a daunting mass of competition.
But even with its ample style and wit, Los Angeles magazine doesn't always leap off a newsstand. I understood Rachlis' challenge as I strolled along Main Street in Venice, Calif., a beach community within greater Los Angeles, on the morning of May 23. When I passed a small newsstand, I noticed that the window display showcased the Hollywood Reporter and a competing publication called Brentwood ("Southern California's Affluent Entertainment Magazine") - but Los Angeles wasn't featured there. "I hope we were sold out," Rachlis said with mock-concern. Perhaps. Or maybe it was something else.
"The magazine is lacking a certain kind of vitality and originality," says Mary Kaye Schilling, executive editor of Entertainment Weekly. "The energy of LA is not captured in LA magazine." But Lions Gate Entertainment vice chairman Michael Burns is a fan. "It's clearly the leader in its space, with world-class photographers and very smart writers."
Los Angeles magazine is technically excellent, in the tradition of Esquire. It consistently features clever, snappy headlines. Its photography gleams with high style. Its writing reeks of intelligence.
Its stories, no doubt, reflect the kind of subjects that many Angelinos [sic] breathlessly discuss at their office water coolers. Given its sensibilities, if Los Angeles magazine were a rock and roll band, it would be Steely Dan.
But it could also use the snarl of the Clash. One surefire way that Los Angeles could separate itself from the publishing pack is by giving its articles -- which are uniformly informative, well written and interesting -- a more profound edge. The magazine sometimes seems reluctant to offend its subjects.
Rachlis counters that theory by saying: "I don't think Peter Bart or Bernie Weinraub or Magic Johnson would say we are reluctant to offend our subjects."
Amy Wallace's much-admired profile of Variety's Bart "was a no-holes barred piece showing how powers works in the culture of Hollywood," Rachlis said.
Rachlis tells Friedman that one of his goals is to dispell myths about the city.
"The media on the East Coast seem to think that L.A. is kind of a freak show or a function of the entertainment industry or a hick town...I want to treat it as a real city where people with families live," said Rachlis, a native of New York whose resume includes everything from the Los Angeles Times to the Village Voice and the Boston Phoenix.
"The culture is sophisticated in a way that New Yorkers could never imagine..."
Pointer to the link from I Want Media.