The Reading Room

American magazines

In recent years I’ve become an aficionado of American magazines – the New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harpers – and their long pieces of reportage. It’s odd that reportage has never taken off in the UK – perhaps because in the UK our news coverage is pretty entertaining and veers into features territory. Whereas the news pages in American newspapers – even the New York Times – are uber-straight, conservative, and generally feature diabolically leaden headlines.   Playfulness, imagination and wit are banished, and only turn up in American magazines. At their best, US magazine features manage to combine intelligence and beautiful writing. On a long plane journey recently I read five thousand words about Florida Estate Agents in the New Yorker – and it was totally gripped.   British features can have great style –   (Are there any US writers with such a virtuoso style as Marina Hyde or Clive James?) but they can lack a real depth of analysis. They are all beautiful surfaces. One thing that is surprising – given the budget cuts faced by most newspapers – is that UK papers don’t buy in more American content. Roger Alton, isn’t this a way that you could make the Indy feel a bit less threadbare?  RB

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