With nominations in five categories, the monthly GQ and weekly New Yorker lead the 75 finalists in the judging of 1994's entries in the annual National Magazine Awards. The awards, the industry's equivalent of the Oscars, will be held April 14 in New York.
As for the competition between GQ and the New Yorker:
GQ writer Tom Junod has two entries in the feature-writing category.
One, "The Abortionist," published in the February issue, is about Dr. John Bayard Britton, the 68-year-old doctor who replaced Dr. David Gunn after he was murdered two years ago in Pensacola, Fla., "the Selma of the abortion-rights movement," as Mr. Junod calls it.
Mr. Junod also wrote, in the January issue, "Frank Sinatra Jr. is Worth Six Buddy Greccos," which not only describes the drearier aspects of being the aging crooner's son but also his father's fans who call out to him things like, "Junior, can you give me your autograph, even if you're only Junior?" As Mr. Junod understates: "When you are the son of Frank Sinatra, you learn, at every turn, your place in this world."
Another entry in the National Magazine Awards feature category is William Finnegan's "Doubt," which appeared in the Jan. 31 New Yorker. It's about the journalist's experience as a juror who, after voting to convict the defendant, decided to conduct his own post-conviction investigation into the case. His conclusion: He has no idea whether the defendant actually committed the crime for which the jury sent him to prison. But he believes that the defendant received a fair trial anyway. You have to read it to understand it.
In the reporting category, Susan Faludi's "The Naked Citadel" in the Sept. 5, 1994, New Yorker is a contender. It's not only about the public military college in Charleston but about Shannon Faulkner, the woman who challenged the school's 150-year-old all-male policy. The crux of the piece is what Ms. Faludi describes as the Citadel's "reinvention," "reopening" and "reinvigoration" of itself in 1882 as a symbol of the South's masculinity after the Union's reconstruction officials had thoroughly stripped the school of all of its military muscle.
Mary A. Fischer's "Did Michael Do It?" in last October's GQ argues that Michael Jackson molested no one and that he himself may have been the victim of a well-conceived plan to extract money. Ms. Fischer argues persuasively that the case against him may have been "simply invented."
What illuminates all these pieces is their imaginative imagery, which include the following:
A doctor asking a Bush voter who wants an abortion why he should perform the procedure if she's "going to vote for someone who wants to make it illegal." Or the doctor staring pensively at a threatening one-line message on the door of his office: "What would you do if you had five minutes left to live?"
Then there's the public military college's beleaguered attempt to assume the burden of representing the South's masculinity. A star freshman member of the Citadel's cycling team is forced to hang by his fingers over a sword poised 2 inches below his testicles.
It was the latest in a series of brutal encounters with upperclassmen that included being knocked down with a rifle butt and being beaten in the dark by a pack of cadets. The freshman decided to leave school.
If O. J. Simpson has done anything, he/it has given readers/viewers an interest in the law and how it works. You can see how legal issues thread through several of the above pieces. And the April Harper's has a couple along the same lines.
"Is Justice Color-Blind," excerpted from "New Techniques for Winning Jury Trials," by a Minneapolis trial consultant, shows lawyers how to interpret the clothing, hairstyles, occupations, educations and other characteristics of jurors and potential jurors to determine "who will potentially harm your case the most . . . and how best to gain rapport and credibility with individual jurors."
In the same issue, "A King's Ransom" headlines the itemized bill for $1 million submitted last October to the city of Los Angeles by Steven Lerman, one of the lawyers representing Rodney King in his lawsuits against the city and against the police officers who beat him in 1991. Talk about billable hours!