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Drum roll, please

'Tis the season for magazine awards

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Psst. Hey kid! Wanna get some free magazines? Wanna read some of the best magazine articles of the year? For free?

C'mere. I'll set you up. You can tell your friends, too.

But first, two awards shows get my undivided attention each year. Utne Magazine rolls out their Independent Press Awards nominee list at the end of the year, and two months later they announce the winners. Always great choices. The American Society of Magazine Editors publishes their list of National Magazine Award Finalists in the spring and recognizes the winners in May.

If you love reading magazines, browsing for great essays, good stories or just plain print media fun, the National Magazine Award Winners list is your periodical nirvana. It's all there: the best editors, best writers, best design, best journalism. I stay up all night reading the winning entries on my trusty old 14-inch flat screen. Why? 'Cause everything is online.

And that's the crazy part. Name one magazine that you haven't heard rumors about their going under in the past two years. They're all in trouble. Price of paper is going up; same with ink. Price of gas goes up, causing shipping costs to catch a bump. Advertisers are playing one medium against another, and with a tanked economy the ad dollars have shriveled up. Print subscriptions and renewals are down. Academic periodical publishing is hurting as are the libraries that buy their goods.

Returns from newsstand sales are at 60 percent for some of the supermarket pulp. National magazine distributors, the very essential middlemen, flirt with bankruptcy while they slow-pay or no-pay the start up zines who dream of simply taking their mag out of town for a run.

Mr. Google and Mrs. Internet have totally turned the magazine industry upside down.

The best articles of the year from the best magazines of the year are all just a click away on the extraordinary A.S.M.E. Web site of awards and winners. Every magazine is linked, individual articles are linked, it's a print paradise, only it's online. Paperless, subscription-less. Free.

Get your deeply-discounted New Yorker, Esquire, Gourmet, Aperture, Newsweek and W. At no cost.

One of the big winners of last year's awards? The Oxford American for their Annual Music Issue, Winner of the Single-Topic Issue Award. It was a great issue, also one of their last. The magazine went out of business when it couldn't meet its subscriber goal and couldn't sell enough ads to keep their new owner happy.

All of the other above magazines have great Web sites and convenient contact info. They also hope you subscribe to their print editions posthaste! So don't forget the wonders of turning pages, OK?

At least one new local magazine isn't afraid to roll the dice on print success. The Village Rambler Magazine is a bi-monthly out of Chapel Hill. Publisher Dave Korzon's latest issue is all about summer. Funky, full color, old-timey postcards dot this eclectic mag. North Carolina poetry, photographs, interviews, history and storytelling fill the Rambler's 60-plus pages. "Our goal is to celebrate, discover, surprise, and learn a few things along the way. And, by all means, have fun doing it," writes Korzon. That's how you make it happen.

  • www.magazine.org/Editorial/National_Magazine_Awards
  • www.villlagerambler.com

    Contributing writer John Valentine can be reached at ajcg@acpub.duke.edu

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