Monday, August 15, 2005

Investigating Investigate

The Australian media battlefield is strewn with the corpses of magazines who fought valiantly but failed. Back in the mid-1990s it was Kookaburra, a magazine of satire, that produced a wonderful first issue but failed to make it to a second. In the late 90s it was The Eye, an excellent anti-establishment magazine which stirred the pot, but evidently failed to find an audience. Then just recently there was The Reader, also from Text Media, which has slinked back to the on-line world after trying its luck in print.

Given this background, it was a brave move by New Zealand magazine Investigate to try its luck in Australia. This monthly magazine has been established across the Tasman for some time, but has only this year ventured into the Australian market.

Here 'tis


To title the magazine "Investigate" is highly misleading. For sure, the feature article was a fascinating show-and-tell amongst the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Phillipines, for which journalist Matthew Thompson and photographer Ranae Carlson deserve plenty of credit. That is investigative journalism. The rest, though is a collection of opinion, commentry and muckraking, with a distinctive conservative bent. The magazine is quite deliberately slanted to the right: take the editorial, for example, which carries the subtitle "Douglas Wood's rescue reveals the Left's moral bankruptcy" - ouch!

The collection of contributers gives heart to any bloggers - ahem - who dream of one day making it into the mainstream. Amongst their number are columnists Alan Anderson (formerly The View From The Right), Adrian Neylan (Adrian the Cabbie) and Tim Dunlop (Road to Serfdom - and the sole lefty to make it into Investigate). Whilst it's wonderful to see bloggers make the chasmic leap across to the print world, it must be remembered that bloggers are primarily armchair commentators rather than well connected investigators.

Ultimately, Investigate is a welcome contribution to the Ausrtalian media landscape. The cover price of $7.95 is rather steep, and market economics (of which Investigate would no doubt be big fans, given its politics) will surely force it down if the magazine is to have a future. However, with a distinctive conservative voice, high production values and a modest display of investigative skills, this is a magazine of both style and substance. This will be one to watch, and deserves to enjoy a longer lifespan than its blink-and-you'll-miss-it predecessors.

Anyone else likely to read this stuff, or am I going to be the only one, sheepishly hiding it inside something more dignified? (Perhaps you'd call is a respectable receptacle?)

UPDATE 16/8, 9:04pm: As if on cue to prove my point about the difficulties of sustaining an independent magazine at the moment, one of the more glossy and insubstantial publications on the market has bitten the dust. From the Herald Sun:

Jobs go as magazine folds

16aug05

MELBOURNE Magazine will fold less than three years after it was launched.

Managing director John Allan said the monthly magazine would release its final edition in September after its board decided it was not financially viable to continue.
The magazine was founded by Steve Harris, the former editor-in-chief of The Age, and was first published in 2002.

3 comments:

Chris Berg said...

Take my comments with a grain of salt - coming from a pseudo competitor of Investigate - but I don't share your opinion of the new magazine. The only thing that differentiates Investigate from the raft of other news magazines is its vaguely conservative bent - a bent which is uninspiring to say the least.

It's glossy - a reflection of the vast range of sponsors James Morrow has dug up - but it strikes me as unfocused. The lifestyle and technology sections are vapid, to say the least. Morrow can't possibly believe that it will displace the more comprehensive competitors in this area. Why would he try?

And I don't quite understand why they have to print Ann Coulter as their 'right hook'.

I have some data on magazine launches and closures over the last 20 years here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ari, I haven't yet read your pearls of wisdom, but I will. Always fun to read. Just keep well and happy. Love Aunty

Peter Parker said...

I've only flicked through it briefly, so can't really comment, but I'd have to agree with Chris about lightweight lifestyle stuff.

Unless there is such a thing called the 'Tory Lifestyle', where political attitude translates into distinct dress, music, art, housing and other preferences, there's no point in having it.

PP McGuinness and Phillip Adams both dress similarly (ie black) and have digs in trendy Sydney suburbs, so I don't think there is these days.

Though it's less satisfying (but cheaper), I must admit to reading blogs instead of dead tree media. And to think that 10 years ago I used to subscribe to Arena, Quadrant & Eureka Street!

I signed up for the freebie issue of the Monthly, haven't bought a subsequent issue, though I admit to skimming through the article on the Young Libs in Borders.