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

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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