Jan 232008
Authors: Griffin Faust

Art: Art is the sure-fire element a publication has to catch a new reader’s attention.

In passing Radar at my local newsstand, the absurdity of the cover’s digitally modified photo of America’s president caught my eye.

The photo shows Bush is straddling the A-bomb on its descent to destruction, rodeo-style with liquor and bible in hand — two forms of societal embracement of Doomsday, an image is effectively parodying a high profile celebrity and connects with one of the feature articles aptly entitled, “Apocalypse Wow!”

Within the pages the graphics range from neurotic paparazzi telescope shots to glamorous photo shoots that remind me of frat boy favorite Maxim.

Overall, the art and design is reminiscent of Ok! and Us Weekly.

In spite of that tarnished impression, Radar certainly defines itself with incredibly over-the-top cartoon graphics, situational and always sucker-punching a ritzy celebrity. But it’s true, I love those images.

Audience: I base a publication’s demographic on a few elements: art, topics covered, voice and ads.

Since all but ads were too close to call whether Radar is targeted to young professionals, media geeks or Tiger Beat readers, I hoped the ad space would be blatantly revealing.

The ads are not cluttering the written reportage. Full pagers promoting pricey watches, fast cars and $350 Jordache jeans are Radar’s giveaway at being a wealthy young capitalist’s vice for gossip and scandals.

Quite a few, but not all, articles were targeted to affluent crowds. For example, the article “Hair Wars” is a reader’s guide to America’s most glamorous beauty salons.

The magazine also plays to another tone. The jabs at conservative pop icons and corporate sprawl are evenly sprinkled throughout the publication. These jokes and chaffing ridicule clearly define Radar as liberal and unforgiving.

Purpose: Radar just might be a fancy, talent-based and coherent tabloid; mixing the genres of Newsweek and Hello. The problem isn’t that Radar wanders back and forth over the line that separates critical media culture and scandalous paparazzi garbage, but I cannot just clump it in one or the other.

Features: My favorite parts of magazines are the meaty feature stories, which Radar has a clear commitment in printing. The stories are longwinded and written with creative liberty.

I like the complete profile in “Suspicious Minds,” a strong story with a distinct voice, lots of sources and an open-ended finish. I commend the effort put into “The Last Days of Big Red,” a tribute article to Dean Johnson, a lifelong rocker who survived heroin, HIV, orgiastic affairs and other subversive activity. Other meaty clips are entitled “The Bubble Boy,” a technical business profile and “The Panic Boom!” a paranoia filled parody piece that counts the ways in which the Earth or the human race has almost reached expiration.

Bottom Line: I cannot deny I was highly entertained, and I appreciate Radar’s commitment to topic variety, humor (even if it’s sometimes distasteful) and cogent feature clips. I would recommend reading it for a few minutes before the bus, but subscribing would be a boldly poor choice.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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