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Thursday, October 2, 2003

On newsstands now

I bought a copy of the new Portland Monthly magazine yesterday. I've opened it a few times, but I can't get into it.

I'm having trouble figuring out what this publication is trying to be. And to the extent that I can catch a glimmer of what it is, I'm not much interested.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for magazines, especially those brave enough to tackle a depressed market like Portland. But this one has quite a few bugs. Start with the title. It's called Monthly but it will be published bi-monthly.

And the identity crisis doesn't stop there. In its introduction, PM claims to aspire to be a force in shaping the destiny of the city: to "be the battleground on which the fight for Portland's future can be waged." But as you thumb through the articles in the inaugural issue, it's hard to see this publication playing anything like that role. For one thing, it covers little of civic affairs, and what's there are exceedingly stale stories -- the Blazers have a PR problem, some angry dog-hater poisoned a number of innocent dogs in Laurelhurst Park, there are new directors in the city's performing arts organizations. What's worse, in rehashing those stories, the authors have little new to say. You'll get more about the future of Portland in 15 minutes a week with Willamette Week or the Portland Tribune than you will with PM.

The rest of the inaugural issue -- by far the bulk of it -- consists of puff pieces on such absorbing topics as mai tais, hairstylists, and gardening. There are lots of gushy restaurant reviews and a chatty arts preview, and a strange "best of Portland" list of 50 disconnected items. No. 2: the Vintage Trolley. No. 3: Mount Hood. Feh.

It's laid out like GQ or Esquire, and the smarmy writing adopts much the same tone. It tries hard to be funny, mostly without success, and that's immediately off-putting. In about a dozen places, it takes an annoying few seconds to figure out whether you're looking at an ad or an article. And the pages and pages of glossy event listings that try to make Portland look like such a young, exciting, vibrant place don't withstand scrutiny. (Example: The 10 "On the Town" special events listings include the Home Improvement Show and the Trail Blazers.)

The cool picture of the staff reveals it to be a bunch of kids, no doubt very bright and oh-so-hip. (Three black shirts out of nine people.) But I can't imagine their brand of journalism speaking to anyone in the Portland area outside the Pearl District.

Indeed, paying $3.99 for this magazine feels like paying $700,000 for a condo in a Pearl tower: Maybe it will appeal to someone who just got here, but not to me or most of the fogies I hang around with. It sure ain't my Portland.

Comments (6)

Pearl district denizens. I've browsed the magazine before, and it seemed that that was the only crowd that it was aimed at. It didn't speak to any Portland that I know. Funny, I think that the WW has an article on it this week also, with similar conclusions. To so many, including the mayor apparently, Portland stops at the river.

Just look at their article on diners and see how many are situated in or around whatever they consider to be the Pearl.

And while I actually enjoyed some of that "50 things" list, it's hard to get past all the attempted irreverence or archness that comes across as forced into place.

The WWeek article provides some insight. Apparently, the starters of the mag are a brother and sister who just moved to Portland. The target demographic is well-to-do women (yes, probably from the Pearl District), thus all of the pages of ads and shopping/restaurant reviews. Sounds like a big fat bore to me. It's such a bummer too...I jsut returned from London where the glossy city mags (like Time Out) are actually pretty cool.

I've got a hunch it won't make it to a first anniversary issue.

I have to confess ignorance...I had the other Portland magazine in mind, my bad.

Hi all,

I'm an editor at the above-reviewed (or, rather, panned) Portland Monthly magazine, and I write to invite you all to send letters to the editor if you'd like to voice your criticisms to the source. We want your feedback.

Adam Van Loon
Articles Editor
Portland Monthly

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