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Pseudo-In-Depth Analysis of The Things I Read Online: Slate.com

Categories: This Writer's Life.
As in gymnastics or morning visits to the bathroom, everyone has their
own routines for visiting the Internet 2.0. Before I can safely get to
“work”, I scroll through a lengthy list of favorite blogs, news sites,
social networking…networks, trendy sneaker information providers,
and forums analyzing “The View” in an effort to get a more full and
informed view of the world. And perhaps because of that finely tuned,
cosmopolitan-esque view of said world, a lot of people should ask
me, “What, Kevin, are those sites that provide you with such piercing
insights and almost encyclopedic knowledge of other people’s
relationship statuses via The Facebook?”

So–in an effort to answer that self-asked hypothetical question– I
am dropping a new, potentially recurring entry into my nest of
recurring blog entries called, well, you can read the title. The point
is to take a look at some of the sites that I read, give you some
background on them, and then review them. Best case scenario, friends,
is that you discover a new site of potential interest, worst case
scenario, is that–somewhere down the line– I attempt to submit
something to one of these sites and, after a quick Google search, all
of this comes back to bite me in the ass and I’m summarily blacklisted
from participating in the Internet. Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t a good
idea.

Slate.com

Slate.com is an online news and culture magazine. According to its
Advertising page (brief teaching moment: a good way to get a quick
idea of how a magazine imagines their audience is to go to their
“advertise with us” page and look at how they define themselves to
advertisers and who they describe as their audience. It sounds kind of
obvious, but it seemed entirely clever to me at the time I sorted it
out), they attract 5 million unique visitors a month, although I don’t
know anyone outside of the journalism or writing worlds that doesn’t
just assume that Salon and Slate are–in the words of my roommate–
the same “online magazine thing”.

Journalists, on the other hand,–or, at least the ones that I
associate with–assume that everyone is reading this particular online
magazine thing. In fact, 86% of all conversations I have at Boston Mag
start with, “Did you read __’s takedown of __ in Slate?” and then
trail off into some sort lengthy debate as to whether you agree or
disagree, usually followed by some sort of speculative, unconfirmed
anecdote about the personal/professional life of the person who wrote
it and then a call down to Ad Sales to see if there are any open-bar
launch parties that night. That, friends, in a nutshell, is how good
journalism is made.

Anyway, Slate caters, if not specifically to journalists, then at
least to people who spend a good deal of their time reading other
magazines and newspapers, and they do it by acting like a
meta-magazine; offering analysis, commentaries, and refutations of
things written in other papers or magazines or blogs. Other online
entities also do this (in fact, it’s sort of an online specialty)
but–since most of the people who write for Slate are seasoned
journalists–you don’t get that snarky “outsider attacking insider”
feel that you get at a site like Gawker.com, and you can feel
intelligent plagiarizing their opinions in an effort to sound more
informed while making small talk on the subway.

My one issue with Slate, which is most people’s issue, is they seem to
have a standard template for all of their pieces: think of some sort
of contrary POV about a major issue/commonly prescribed notion,
counter said argument using cleverly worded rhetorics, add many, many
hyperlinks. When they pull it off, (which, admittedly, is most of the
time) it comes off sounding fresh, new, and almost genius, but when
they don’t, it just sort of sounds like they all sat around
brainstorming what would happen if every day was some sort of
highbrow, literary version of Opposite Day.

Either way, Slate does what any good culture/news mag should do; it
infuriates, informs, and entertains, all while sparking debate. Plus,
their movie critic Dana Stevens and I share similar tastes in films,
which makes me feel smart.

Anyway, as soon as I can sort it out, I’ll give you a tasting plate of
some classic, must-read Slate pieces. But, friends, since this is more
of a conversation than anything else, I’m curious to get your own
insights and opinions on sites that you read everyday, especially ones
that are well-written, informative, and hilarious. So check up on
those in the Comments. And yes, self promotion equals automatic
disqualification. Come on now, you’re better than that.

Get out of my dreams,
and into my car.

Billy,
Ocean

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6 Responses to Pseudo-In-Depth Analysis of The Things I Read Online: Slate.com

  1. Genevieve Cancienne says:

    Sierra- Don’t apologize for writing too much when you’ve introduced us to hotels made of sewage. You can’t put a word count on that kind of information. It’s too cool.

    Kevin- Tell your editors that shoes are your muse. It’s a valid excuse and it rhymes (no, I’m not a poet. How could you tell?)

  2. Sierra says:

    I just wrote way too much didn’t I? Apparently I’m very passionate about the Internet 2.0, forgive me.

  3. Sierra says:

    The bulk of my favorites list isn’t terribly sophisticated, so here are 3 fun time-wasters.

    1.) CafePress.com- “Shop, sell, or create what’s on your mind.” You can basically get any design, saying or image put on T-shirts, accessories, or whatever you want. Excellent holiday shopping potential here people! For example, Kevin, you could get all your co-workers mugs that say things like, “Prose before hos,” “Will write for coffee” or “My muse can beat up your muse.” You’ll be a hit! http://www.cafepress.com/
    2.) “Fly Guy”- This game is the weirdest, most peaceful, simple-minded fun you could ever have. http://trevorvanmeter.com/flyguy/-
    3.) “Unusual Hotels of the World”- For you travelers, this is just cool! It includes mildly interesting hotels (like the Library hotel in New York) to REALLY wacky ones. The one featured on their home page today is the Das Park Hotel in Austria, where the rooms are built from giant concrete sewage pipe segments. Good times! http://www.uhotw.com/

    Oh, wait, I thought of a good one, more on the serious side. I visit the Current TV website a lot. Current TV is a channel and website created by Al Gore (he just won an Emmy for it), and it’s a “peer-to-peer news and information network.” Basically how it works is anyone can make a short video (what they call “pods”) about a story they find interesting or news worthy, submit it, and then anyone can go to the website, watch the pods, vote on which ones they like best, and the ones with the highest votes get put on TV. I know, it sounds kinda YouTube-ish the way I’m describing it, but most of the submitted videos are actually really professional and compelling. I love the idea that the public has most of the deciding power about what goes on the air.
    http://www.current.com

    Thanks for the fun topic Kevin, I look forward to reading about more of your favorite sites.

  4. Kevin Alexander says:

    Genevieve– it’s not embarrassing to read JK Rowling’s website. British Wizards are quite adept at the Web 2.0 and I’m also often sold by whooshing sounds. And trust me, you don’t need to rationalize a lack of intellectual stimulation… I spend most of my day scrolling thru pictures of sneakers on a website called "Nice Kicks". I just didn’t think my editors would want me to admit that. Sh*t.

    And Rams, I know you read that website because you send me the link every day. I’m just curious if you look at anything else… and no, Chicago Sports Online doesn’t count.

  5. Genevieve Cancienne says:

    This is kind of embarassing, but I read jk rowling’s web page. I check it periodically because it’s kind of cool, and if you click on the Wizard of the Month calender it makes this neat whooshing sound when the page pops up. And in keeping with the British theme I also check out virgin radio’s website just about every day. They have news about bands I like and if you listen to them on-line you get to hear British commercials, which are mostly funny. Plus, I read this. So I think that means that I seek barely any intellectual stimulation at all during the day, but in my defense I write full time, and I have a 4, 6, and 8 year old. I need the laughter! I keep up with news and trends on a need to know basis. Oh! Wait! I read Literary Momma on-line, which is really funny and definitely something for the literary and maternally inclined.

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