Garrison Keillor likes to talk about how early exposure to The New Yorker shaped his life and career. The magazine’s sophistication and sensibility seemed worlds away from his everyday life, but its sparkling writing and urbane sensibility shone like a beacon to the small-town kid from Anoka, Minnesota.
Our adolescent experience was more downmarket. Chris, for example, would soak up every pulpy page of Creem magazine, from its cheap glossy cover to the snarky back-page captions accompanying snapshots of Iggy Pop and Blondie. The writing was a revelation, with everything from a perfectly-crafted Cameron Crowe feature to the wondrous wordbombs of Lester Bangs. For his part, Doug found himself immersed in Sports Illustrated, where more than a few great writers discovered that sportswriting is among the most flexible and creative outlets in American journalism.
Neither Contexts nor The Society Pages will ever out-gonzo Creem, out-hyperbolize SI, or out-refine Keillor’s Updike-era New Yorker, but we certainly aspire as editors to the inspirational and declarative power of such magazines. Whether in print or online, a well-constructed magazine conveys a sensibility and cultivates a vibe. More than that, it gives us concrete examples and directives for action.
Around here, we get especially excited about pieces that convincingly show us how social science matters for the world. For example, Contexts’ Is Hooking Up Bad for Young Women? brings high-quality evidence to questions about the sexual lives of young people that confirms some of our suspicions (women have better sex in relationships than in hookups), while busting some oft-repeated myths (the costs of bad hookups are usually much lower than the costs of bad relationships) and communicating it all effectively, using telling descriptors like “limited liability hedonism.”
We’d like to think such features inspire other social scientists to tackle issues front-and-center on the public radar, to bring high-quality evidence to bear, and to tell clear and convincing stories. Our editorial mission is to help showcase and propagate such work, in hopes of energizing and inspiring more social scientists to reach out to a public audience. And if they happen to write like John Updike or Lester Bangs, all the better.