Thursday, June 2, 2011

All The Free Fluff One Could Ask For: Syracuse New Times Leaves Me Unimpressed.

The Good: Occasional freebies/exclusive coupons
The Bad: Very addy, Reviews tend to be uninsightful, Fluffy articles.
The Basics: Disappointing and more packed with ads than substance, the Syracuse New Times is pretty much a waste of paper.

Have you ever seen those free newspapers that look like inserts from bigger newspapers that are given out in trendy spots? Ever wondered who reads them and why? Well, the Syracuse New Times is one such newspaper; it is a (in newspaper terms) half-page, magazine-format newspaper designed to keep young, hip people in Syracuse, New York up-to-date on the goings on in Syracuse. Unencumbered by anything remotely heavy, the Syracuse New Times is a weekly publication that can be found free throughout Syracuse, New York.

For those who comment on my verbosity, I'm trying something with this look at the "Syracuse New Times;" a quick pan. This newspaper impresses me week after week with just how little substance can be packed in alongside advertisements and classified ads. The forty-eight page magazine is a newsprint magazine (the analogy to a newspaper insert is quite a good one) and over half of the magazine is classified ads and advertisements for restaurants and clubs in Syracuse. Geared toward the college town crowd, this publication is easily found downtown and informs readers - through the ads - who is performing at what clubs in the city and which new clubs are opening.

In between the drink night specials advertised are fluffy, light diction articles that are focused on local entertainment, food and drink and reviews from people who seldom like anything but the most obscure works. The Syracuse New Times is supposed to be the pulse of Syracuse to help those in the city organize their leisure time, but it reads more like an alternative newspaper with music reviews of local c.d.s or alternative radio type albums; mainstream artists only have their music reviewed when they are coming to Syracuse and have a new disc out.

Similarly, the movie reviewer for the Syracuse New Times alternates between gushing over the current blockbusters and leaving the reader with absolutely no impression how a movie is. She is excellent at encapsulating plot, but she makes no distinction between good casting and good acting and when she is not busy recommending whatever film is going to be number one at the box office that weekend anyway, she writes plot-heavy reviews that do not qualify a film. This leaves the reader with little impression as to her reviews and whether or not a movie is actually worth going to see; it is almost as if she is afraid to lose her free screening passes by actually panning movies she does not like, so she simply avoids writing about how a film is.

The food and drink critics seem to be mixed; they have a great eye for acknowledging what is trendy and current and they always seem to know the new hot spots in Syracuse. This makes the magazine a useful resource for those coming to Syracuse looking for somewhere to go. The magazine also critiques some of the nicer restaurants in Syracuse and those tend to be useful as well (though they often go to places I cannot afford!). But some of the reviews focus overly on drinking, appealing more to the college crowd than me (as a teetotaler). In general, the weekly food guide is decent for getting an idea of a new place to try. The reviewers there at least tend to have a discriminating palate.

Unfortunately, the food reviews are perhaps a page out of the entire magazine and the rest of the magazine is filled with relative fluff. Articles include things like beach guides for local beaches, video game previews for the next month, and interviews with performers coming for stage productions coming to the Syracuse stage. The interviewers seldom ask tough questions of the people being interviewed or even questions that have not been asked (when it is a major celebrity coming to Syracuse) that fans couldn't find elsewhere.

With about ten pages of substance - it's tough to call it "substance" when the ten pages of articles are spread out among the first twenty pages of the magazine and interspersed with advertisements - the Syracuse New Times then degenerates into simple lists. The bulk of the weekly magazine is filled with current "events;" local musical acts and what bars they are playing at, book signings (on the rare times there are in Syracuse!), the week's theater events, and listings of local sporting events. The lists are very basic "who, what, when, where, cost" listings and there is little sense of organization - outside chronological order to the listings.

The lists are followed by classified ads, which are pretty standard classifieds: missing items, relationship ads, job and apartment listings, etc. All that separates the listings from the classified ads are the boxes around each classified. Given how addy the paper is anyway, it's tough to get through anything after the first few pages. The only reason I pick one up occasionally is that the Syracuse New Times gives away free movie tickets occasionally. I've never won them, but I keep trying!

It's too bad the paper is wasted for so little substance. Not a good read, the Syracuse New Times is ideal for travelers or college students looking to find where the young, "cool" people are in Syracuse at any given night. For those of us past that part of our lives, it's easy to pass this magazine by.

For other magazines reviewed by me, please check out my take on:
Catholic Digest
Consumer Reports
Star Wars Insider


For other book and magazine reviews, please be sure to check out my index page on the subject!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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