Will This New Magazine Be California’s Answer to “The New Yorker”?

The editor of the new “California Sunday” magazine says he is “inspired by the visual and entrepreneurial culture of the West.”

California, here we come.<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidyuweb/4432125636">David Yu</a>/Flickr


Back when editor Doug McGray was envisioning what he wanted his future magazine to look like, he thought about landing at the San Francisco airport. “If I fly to New York for work, when I come home and get off the plane, California looks different,” he says. “The quality of light is different.”

The first issue of California Sunday Magazine lands this Sunday, October 5; it’s a new publication that’s (gulp) in print and (gasp) not based in New York. McGray sees his brainchild as “palpably Californian,” written for a national audience but “inspired by the visual and entrepreneurial culture of the West.”

McGray has spent years working for several publications that define themselves by geography, or at least reference it in their titles: the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and This American Life. Since 2008, he’s been focused on a project so location-specific that if you’re not in the right room on the right night, there’s no way to see it: Pop-Up Magazine, an unrecorded live event whose “issues” consist of performances by authors, illustrators, filmmakers, and graphic designers. (My colleague Michael Mechanic wrote about Pop-Up in a December 2012 issue of Mother Jones).

“One of the reasons the media industry is overconcentrated on the East Coast is that it’s been overconcentrated on the East Coast.”

After Pop-Up Magazine sold out San Francisco’s 2,700-seat symphony hall one night in 2012, McGray started thinking he could do more with the community the project had created. He loved the way it brought people together around stories. A magazine seemed like a logical next step.

He teamed up with Digg publisher Chas Edwards, and early this year the pair announced that they were starting Cal Sunday. Creative director Leo Jung, formerly of Wired and the New York Times Magazine, and photography director Jacqueline Bates, who was the senior photo editor of W Magazine, were early hires.

Why launch a new print publication on the opposite coast from the country’s magazine publishing hub? Being at the heart of so many American subcultures, from tech to entertainment, makes California inherently interesting, McGray says. “One of the reasons the media industry is overconcentrated on the East Coast is that it’s been overconcentrated on the East Coast,” he says. But now, he adds, “I don’t think you need to convince people on the East Coast that things happening in California are important.” California Sunday‘s reporters will range outside the Golden State, too, covering the West, Asia, and Latin America.

McGray expects that the “Sunday” part of Cal Sunday‘s title will also shape the magazine’s identity. Print issues will be delivered with Sunday editions of the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Sacramento Bee. Cal Sunday will also be available online, through apps for Android and iPhone, and by Kindle. By launching on multiple platforms at once, he hopes to avoid the “rough transition to digital” that some print publications have struggled with. Prospective readers curious about what’s in the first issue will have to get their hands on a copy—McGray isn’t telling. But he shared three adjectives he hopes it will evoke: “Smart, surprising, and beautiful.”

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate