Why You Still Have to Love Magazines

By Jack Limpert

I always liked Sports Illustrated but when working full-time as an editor I read five newspapers every morning and lots of magazines and for no good reason drifted away from SI. The other magazines relentlessly arrived and often piled up faster than I could read them (all those important-looking issues of the Atlantic, Business Week, and Wired that never got opened). Plus there was all that fast-breaking stuff to look at on the web and I got a lot of sports coverage in the papers and I didn’t need another weekly magazine and SI wasn’t all that cheap. ($39 a year vs. Esquire at $5 a year).

A few months back, now semi-retired and getting fewer newspapers and magazines for work, I again subscribed to Sports Illustrated. Reading the current issue, mostly about college basketball and March Madness, it hit me: Sports Illustrated has better writing and photography than any other magazine out there.

They do lively covers, they do a good job with the short stuff as well as the long pieces, their photography always has been great. They’re savvy about finding interesting happenings and changes in sports and then creating the story around people. At the Washingtonian, someone once said an issue seemed to have too many people stories. My answer was that you never have too many people stories. Why do you think People magazine gets $100 a year for 52 issues?

And the writing in Sports Illustrated? It’s as good as it gets in magazines.

Tim Layden on Victor Oladipo: “Indiana’s late-blooming forward could change the tides of March.”

Seth Davis on Ted Valentine: “The most notorious referee also works the biggest games. Why?”

L. Jon Wertheim on Benny Anders: “The author goes in search of the former Phi Slamma Jamma star.”

All great feature pieces about people but you also learn a lot about college sports and the trials of being too flamboyant but a very good referee and the sadness that can come for an athlete when the cheering stops.

When I was young, an old magazine editor told me that lots of the best feature writers started out as sportswriters. He said they became good magazine writers and book authors because they learned how to write about people and atmosphere and winning and losing.

It’s good to again read Sports Illustrated and be reminded how good a magazine can be.


  1. I have to say, our sports editor, Tom Didato, is one of the best feature writers I’ve seen anywhere. He doesn’t write them very often for the front page but when he does — watch out! — they are great.

  2. Enjoyed your post Jack. As a longtime sportsfan, I too see similarities in the sports world and my industry of campaigns. Growing up as a lad interested in sports has definitely informed my practice of politics.

  3. I heard someone say, “There’s book smart, street smart–and magazine smart.” I think this was referring to the low-fo voter, but I loved it. I am magazine smart–one time, my sister got Texas Monthly coming in for some reason–we knew no one in Texas. The writing was so good, though, I read it cover to cover…then it stopped coming as weirdly as it had materialized. I am legally blind now but can get along with a strong magnifier for short periods–and still read mags. I dunno, there is just something about them.

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