The Good: Decent writing, Inexpensive enough
The Bad: Surprisingly advertisement filled.
The Basics: A short monthly magazine, Rotarian details the efforts of Rotary International to do its many international fellowship efforts.
Some years ago, I was involved with a person who was headed off to Finland for a year and while we intended to keep our relationship together while she was gone, it took her only about four months before she decided the relationship wasn’t worth pursuing. After she returned, we had nothing to do with one another until one day she popped back up in my life and we rekindled what we had. That fizzled after two years of marriage and we parted ways once again. The other day, though, it occurred to me that despite our time together, I never actually knew anything substantial about the organization which was shipping her hither and yon. She went as an exchange student through the local Rotary Club. Because the local Rotarians aren’t exactly forthcoming and she described all of her meetings with the Rotarians locally as hellish experiences that involved public speaking and intense batteries of test to allow her to travel on their dime to a country they chose (Finland was way down on her list), I decided to look into the group and I picked up a small stack of Rotarian magazines from my local library.
After reading through several issues, I’ve got a better idea of what the Rotarians are up to (but still not why they wanted my ex- for anything) and Rotarian makes a few things very clear to us non-Rotarians. Rotary members are all about travel, bettering the world (usually through service to those who cannot help themselves and philanthropy), education and purchasing high quality things to take with them when they travel. The first two come out clearly in what the articles in the magazine are about, the third by how each of the articles are written and the final by the plethora of advertisements peppered throughout each issue. While I read several issues, I’m using the December 2009 issue for my review issue.
Each issue of Rotarian is a glossy, full-color magazine that may be subscribed to for only $12 a year. The magazine has sixty-four pages and the magazine does a decent job of using those pages to communicate the current goals and initiatives of the organization to readers. However, for a magazine one assumes dues from members subsidize, Rotarian is quite filled with printed advertisements. Out of sixty-four pages, twelve are full page advertisements (not including the ads that appear on the back covers. While this might not seem like a lot, with at least three other full pages being wasted to advertisements that are spread out as column ads or half-page ads, Rotarian seems a bit addy for a magazine of its diction caliber.
The quality of writing in Rotarian is, however, decent. This is a magazine intended for erudite adults who are looking to network and get involved in humanitarian projects around the world. Like many magazines, it is broken into regular columns and departments as well as monthly features. Most of the articles are insular to the interests of Rotarians – like a long, illustrated feature on the founder of Rotary – but some of the articles are more universal, like perspectives on charities and how to pack a bag for travel.
Like most magazines, regular columns are written by writers working for the magazine. Rotarian’s include a message from the current president of Rotary International and spotlights on the issue’s contributors. There are regular columns on Health (detailing current international health issues), Management (which helps fuel rumors that Rotary is basically one big networking organization), as well as a monthly crossword puzzle. Each issue also has a column which takes an issue and details statistics and facts about it, for example diabetes in the current issue is explored in little fact bubbles in the current issue.
Regular departments in Rotarian include letters to the magazine, which are as flattering as one might expect of a magazine for a philanthropical organization to be. There are blurbs in the Up Front section, which do such things as focus on a multi-generational Rotarian featuring a picture and biography of a notable Rotarian. They also feature Rotarians from around the world in brief articles or blurbs in the Up Front section. There is a calendar of upcoming Rotarian events in each issue as well as more detailed columns on current endeavors in the Rotarian community. So, for example, current issues have explored the efforts of Rotarians to eliminate Polio from the world. They explore where the efforts are currently and what needs to be done to increase awareness and momentum toward worldwide polio eradication.
The rest of the magazine is a bit of a substantive letdown, then. For example, the biography of Paul Harris, which is illustrated in the current issue, is simple and far less detailed than a well-written biography ought to be. The features on anonymous donors and philosophical views of charitable donations was interesting, but the article on packing a bag light for international travel was not exactly chock full of original information which was only exclusive to the magazine. Current gadgets featured in the feature also read like advertisements, which increased the overall feel of the magazine being addy. Even so, both features were well-written and well-researched.
Ultimately, though, there is very little to write about the single-minded focus of Rotarian. When one article is essentially a sixteen page comic on the Founder’s life and trials, there is a lot of space which feels wasted or underused. Ultimately, I could see the appeal of Rotarian for Rotarians, but as someone outside that culture, it’s not exactly selling me on the group. So while, for example, Rotarian informed me of the efforts of the Rotary to try to eliminate polio, they blurbs on their efforts did not exactly convince me that they were going about it the right way (actually, they were disturbingly vague on specifics of how the money they are trying to raise would be used). But, it was interesting.
If you're looking to get into Rotary International, Rotarian is certainly a good place to start.
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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.