Culture and Content


The Atlantic, March 2013

Maybe I’m guilt plagued for berating a magazine I’ve read for so many years, but I smile now, happy that The Atlantic has its journalistic mojo back. The magazine clearly has an excellent stable of writers, from Ta-Nehisi Coates to James Fallows, and magazine is the better for them.

Magazines such as this one have the ability to draw from troves of social and political data – and The Atlantic often presents such data in ways that stick out, that mean something to we the readers. Such data is present in this issue in a one-pager on the student-loan crisis.

One article that tickles social, political, and economic funnybones is “Anthropology, Inc.,” by Graeme Wood. Here, business reaches deeper than the generic approach to product development and marketing by realizing that different people from the same background react differently to products – and business is attempting to cope with that by adding an anthropological approach to product development.

Jonathan Cohn’s article “The Robot Will See You Now,” plays on the growing ability of computerized entities to do more sophisticated data analysis – in this case the work of analyzing patients’ medical symptoms and coming up with more astute diagnoses.

Perhaps the most galvanizing article here is Rich Shapiro’s “The Hanging,” in which the author delved into the case of William Sparkman, whose body was found hanged in a forested Kentucky cemetery. Shapiro has gone to great lengths to provide a deep study of this hapless man and his death. It’s not a sensational article – certainly not as sensational as one might have supposed, but it does depict the sad plight of lonely, down-on-their-luck people and the grave consequences their lives forebode.


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