Above, dear reader, you will see an example par excellence of lazy journalism. The header to this post is about as hackneyed as they come, but then so is the approach of a new periodical we stumbled across this week, the rubbishly titled SLmagazine.
Whereas Dickens spent 500 odd pages flitting between London and Paris, SL pompously sees its “visionary mission” as to provide a cultural link between Shanghai and London (SL – geddit?) in a “110+ pages perfect bound glossy publication” every two months.
We love both cities, and think there are definitely interesting parallells between the two that could be examined. But the first issue of SL fails to do this, instead being a mess of run-of-the mill generalist articles aimed at people who probably weren’t really that interested to begin with.
Anyone with a semi-developed interest in China who lives in the UK, and we assume that includes the magazine’s target demographic of “the growing UK audience interested in Chinese culture and affairs,” and “Chinese graduates and professionals living in the UK” has a bevy of information at their fingertips. It’s called the Internet. And then there’s the million-or-so-a-day articles in the press and on the TV they have to choose from. So to fulfil its brief, SL would have to add something of value to the discourse. It doesn’t.
The more we flicked through the annoyingly tiny Flash version of SL, the more we came to suspect that its target audience is, infact, made up of the kind of people who like to transfer their shopping to a Harrods bag, and think it would make for an awfully good talking point to have a bi-lingual magazine on their coffee table.
Maybe it feels better in its print form (apparently it’s available on news stands in London – anyone spotted it in Shanghai yet?). Maybe the design sits better. Maybe the articles seem less derivative. Maybe the paper weight and absorbency make it perfect bathroom “reading” material.
If you want to read us bang on a little more as to why we think it’s poor-as-piss, read on.
Most glaring is the design of it. The cover is probably trying to be classy with its gold and red, but is about as appealing as immersing your face in a broiling pot of C-store tea eggs. What follows, design wise, is a mess. No consistency in layout or page colour, nothing’s anchored on the pages, crappy stock photography,and egads, they use clip art! We swear we saw this stuff on a PTA newsletter sometime around 1989. The Web site’s sucky, too.
Maybe it would be forgivable if the content overcame the layout. It doesn’t.
By far the most annoying/symptomatic article is the one titled “Foreign Babe in Shanghai”, a trawl through the hideously tedious first-person impressions of an English teacher, accompanied by some more stock images from the Bund. Though we did rather liked how, in her headshot, the author looks like she spent too long bent over tying her shoelaces next to a bicycle rack.
And so the content continues. Blimey, Jeeves, they have a whole army made out of terracotta. Glad they have two articles about it! Gadzooks – they have art too! And, by golly, Traditional Chinese Medicine has good and bad points. That’ll have the Mayfair set up in arms!
Perhaps we’re being snide. Perhaps through this magazine the people of Shanghai will learn that London isn’t constantly foggy, that not everyone wears top hats, and that Andrew Lloyd-Webber isn’t the next in line to the throne; and perhaps Londoners will find out that Shanghai isn’t really all that much like Bladerunner, and be relieved to find out that a chap can get hold of a hearty plate of bangers and mash if he gets the urge.
Though coming out only every two months, with a confused conception of its audience or indeed its raison d’etre, and with its design and content problems, SL is going to have to buck up if it doesn’t want to find itself on the slow boat to China. Or in our emergency bog roll stash.