Sunday’s Mighty Magazine

Once upon a time, the Sunday magazine section to the daily newspaper was welcome relief from pages and pages of timely, straight-laced reporting. Except for the sports pages, of course; they have always been reserved for boosters masquerading as journalists.

Distinct in format, paper quality and content, the magazine section afforded opportunities for writers, reporters and readers alike.

Readers might find respite from the dreariness of daily news in, say, an opinion column or a soft feature on an engaging subject.

Reporters, unchained from the demands of daily deadlines, could take the time – and, often, the space – to develop stories. “Long form journalism,” such reports were called.

And freelance writers found a haven where their pitches to editors on oddball stories might find purchase. Literally.

The New York Times set the standard against which all other efforts were measured.

But NYT didn’t have a monopoly on good, thoughtful writing about important subjects (and silly ones). Local newspapers produced solid Sunday magazines.

In Rochester, NY, “Upstate” magazine accompanied the Sunday edition. Though long gone, it was pretty darn good, as I recall. I don’t know that it ever won any prizes, but that didn’t matter.

The occasional investigative report, the fully developed feature, probably a crossword puzzle or some similar diversion, and a whole page of letters from readers.

I liked, you can surely tell, the Sunday magazine.

A recent trip to Boston yielded this surprising finding: the magazine section, like so much else in the newspaper has shrunk to virtually unrecognizable form.

The Globe includes Parade magazine on Sundays. Who cares? It’s always been drivel, and the palest of pale comparison to the Globe’s own magazine. Its content, geographically unwedded, was syndicated text intended to satisfy the lowest common denominator of readership.

But, to my surprise, Parade has shrunk to about the size of a postage stamp. I’m only barely exaggerating.

But, as noted, Who cares? No great loss.

(Ditto, by the way, to the pathetic USA Weekend publication.)

The Globe Magazine, however, that once clocked in at 80-plus pages, now struggles to get to 40. And in a reduced format.

There was barely a half page of reader letters, page after page filled with quick-read factoids (“35 ways to love a New England winter”), an advice column (with the stereotypic “tough” advice), one feature of decent length and a second (golf in Florida) that seemed not-so-curiously tied to the advertising insert (“Visit Florida”) occupying the center of the issue.

Sunday, I guess, will never be the same.

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