McSweeney’s and the mysterious magazine mission statement

Recently, I have found myself on the cusp of buying myself a present: a subscription to a most wonderful, most absurd literary journal (in case you have not heard of its wonderfulness yet) called McSweeney’s. This San Francisco based publishing company also publishes books of poetry and The Believer—self reported as “The Greatest Magazine in America.” Upon receiving the assignment to analyze a mission statement for Magazine Production and Publishing, I had no problem calling up their website from my favorites. I looked specifically at The Believer (maybe to stop myself from spending all my money) and was surprised at the lack of coherent mission statement. I was expecting something much different than what I found:Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 4.21.18 PM

“The Believer, a five-time National Magazine Award finalist, is a bimonthly literature, arts, and culture magazine. In each issue, readers will find journalism and essays that are frequently very long, book reviews that are not necessarily timely, and interviews that are intimate, frank, and also very long. There are intricate illustrations by Tony Millionaire and a rotating cast of guest artists, poems, a comics section, and regular columns by Nick Hornby and Daniel Handler.”

Rather than describing what the magazine does for the reader, The Believer’s statement hinges on what the magazine contains. After reading the Better Homes and Gardens mission statement, which talks about shaping visions and creativity “to live a more colorful life,” I was expecting at least something more emotive or inspiring from McSweeney’s. I was expecting a clearer voice. At its most voice-infused moment, the mission statement pokes fun at its article length.

Because McSweeney’s is such an acclaimed (and all around cool) brand, I figured that there must be some reason for not delivering a punchy little mission statement, full of the personality packed inside its publications. I suppose that McSweeney’s is more concerned about hooking readers with The Believer’s content than expressing a personality they might deem obvious. Rattling off the awards and authors might serve to establish credibility with a new reader, who might be so impressed by the magazine’s prestige that they are inspired to read it. And still, I wonder if a reader, and the type of quirky reader McSweeney’s targets, would be better appreciate something less instructional and more…whimsical.

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