My campaign to squash Seattle Magazine

I have no idea why I keep reading Seattle Magazine.  It’s touted as ‘The Premier Seattle Monthly’ but really, it’s a monthly collection of trite fluff articles that could be set in Anywhere, USA.    ie: Just swap out ‘Seattle’ for ‘Walnut Creek, CA’ and nothing would really change. 

My fight against Seattle Magazine started about two months ago.  It’s the type of magazine that you find in your dentist’s waiting room, or in my case, my therapist’s.  With diffused light pictorials and headlines touting ‘Food lust!’ and ‘Seattle’s Best Neighborhoods!’, it has this magnetic pull and you can’t NOT look once it’s got you in range.  So, two months ago, I’m reading the ‘Seattle’s Ultra Rich’ edition and having a hard time  differentiating between the actual content and the flashy condo ads pushing ‘Urban Luxury’ and ‘Impeccable Amenities’.  Image vs. Reality was sitting in my lap while I waited for my therapist to help me sort myself out.   I’d just received the bill for my therapist so reading the ‘Ultra-rich’ edition just made my hate flower bloom. 

I’m a working professional, just starting out in the world, and totally against the condo movement simply because it’s pricing me out of the neighborhoods I want to live in and changing the very character of the city I love.  My mind proceeded to fall  into this swirling mess of angry letters I could write and debating whether marrying for money and not love just to live in the 98122 made me a slut.  (I decided on a ‘yes’ answer for that question.)

But now onto reasons why I pray for the downfall of Seattle Magazine.  I was born in Tacoma and moved to Seattle when I was two.  I’ve lived here all my life, save for that 14 month period when I ran away to the high deserts of Arizona, so I think that gives me some license to express my disgust with a publication that claims to be Seattle’s ‘Premier Monthly’…I’ve got me some serious Seattle pride.  Mainly because us natives are a rare breed but also because I’m against any glossy publication that costs $6 an issue and has more clichés than my old 6th grade journal entries.

If you knew ANYTHING about Seattle, it’s that we’ve got a lot to share and it goes beyond a bohemian boutique in Fremont.  We’ve got decommissioned power plants, FABULOUS local restaurants that are cheap (Tamarind Tree comes to mind), a vibrant theatre community (no, ACT Theatre doesn’t count), decent open space, and more.  Also, I went to private school growing up so I’ve rubbed elbows and shared ice cream cones with Seattle’s ‘Ultra-rich’ (my friends populated the shores of Lake Sammamish and mostly had Clyde Hill addresses) and let me tell ya, they don’t wear fancy hats, drive Lincoln Towncars, and attend red carpet galas every weekend.  They’re normal folks (albeit with a lot of money).  They wear Chacos.  They kayak.  They have Humane Society doggies.  Let me put it this way…Paris Hilton probably wouldn’t like our high society. 

So why on earth is there a magazine dedicating itself to perpetuating a fabricated view of city life (that was likely concocted by marketing wonks during initial brain storming)?  And WHY is it raking in the money?

I have a theory:  as I stated earlier, Seattle is granola crunchy.  Yes yes, our boys wear Kenneth Cole and I’ve got a few designer duds in my closet (all consignment from hole in the wall boutiques or Craigslist, mind you) but we’re not the red carpet type.  Those guys you see in Belltown with their shirt collars up holding an Amstel on a Friday night at Del Rey?  Yeah, my money is on the fact that they went to business school at UW, came here from the Midwest and decided it was too much work to move to LA.   Those aren’t the natives. 

That being said, I think Seattle has a bit of a self esteem issue regarding its image.  Yes, we’re granola, we recycle, we like fleece but we want to be seen as polished, hip, affluent urbanites.  Nothing wrong with that.  My theory is that Seattle Magazine fulfills this sort of vain desire to be seen as these things.  It’s the type of publication you could send your mom four years out of college to show her that Seattle ain’t so bad.  And she’ll totally buy into it.

So why do I hate Seattle Magazine (and where was I going with this story)?  I hate it because I’m proud of what Seattle has to offer.  We are NOT a city defined by luxury urban condos or salons written up in fashion magazines.  We’ve got ourselves some soul and yes, some adolescent angst but we’re working through it.

So, how could Seattle Magazine pacify this angry native? 

Change the title to Bellevue Magazine. 

The end.


~ by fluvial on August 13, 2007.

33 Responses to “My campaign to squash Seattle Magazine”

  1. The Committee To Squash Seattle Magazine should colocate with the People’s Front Against Cheesecake Factory.

  2. I almost included our little club. The tasty brown bread just keeps calling to me! Speaking of which, when’s the next meeting?

  3. Or at least Belltown Magazine. Hey you can have if you want. I don’t have time or love for it, yet I refuse to sell it, hrm.

    If you like Tamarind Tree you should try Greenleaf. Oh my, so very yum.

    Re: condos. Tough one. As a former resident of Denver, let me tell you, rising condos beat the hell out of sprawling suburbs. Urban density people! But I wish they were more affordable too.

  4. Oh I hear you on the urban density thing but why do they all have to be uber luxurious? Why can’t they be affordable and attractive for middle class folks? That’s my main beef.

  5. Hear hear! I feel the same damn way about Seattle magazine. As a native Seattlite who grew up in a very Italian-American family in what used to be “Garlic Gulch”, I do not feel so represented by the picture Seattle magazine paints.

  6. Hey, I just stumbled upon your article, and I loved it. I moved here from Portland in Sept. 2006, and it’s funny how Seattle Monthly looks exactly like Portland Monthly. Only the ads change, and trust me, the articles on stores and restaurants are really just ads.

  7. Welcome to Seattle! I was actually in Portland this weekend and had the same though about Portland Monthly. I was walking to Powell’s and happened across their offices and thought ‘Wow, that EXACTLY the same template for Seattle Met magazine!’

    If you want good tips on what’s actually happening in Seattle, check out The Stranger.

    You’ve inspired me to write a Top 10 of Seattle list. 🙂

  8. Here here! As a fourth-generation Portlander, I’ve been repeatedly repulsed by Portland Monthly and the Lake Oswego image it’s projecting of a city I love. You said it so well, and the same could be said of Portland. I satiated my anger with a letter to the editor a couple weeks ago in response to his editorial that Portlanders should quit complaining about the negative effects the NYC and LA transplants are having on our city, but rather thank them for “elevating Portland from footnote status.” I’m certain he won’t respond, let alone publish my missive, but I feel so much better for having written it . . . and for finding some allies in Seattle! Thanks for the posting!

  9. Thanks for the comment! Yes, I thought about writing a letter explaining that a more holistic view of Seattle should be show (ie: all the really great history and not just new condos) but then I got lazy. Good for you for following through!

    Stay strong! 🙂

  10. Just FYI–the “ultra-rich” story that you tear apart (for good reason, it was ridiculous) appeared in Seattle Metropolitan NOT Seattle Magazine. And yes, there is a difference. Indeed, both magazines must resort to shiny covers and grabby headlines to sell copies off the stands but if you took a minute to peruse the content and get through the requiste fluff, you’d find both magazines (particulary Seattle Mag in my opinion) are rife with serious, meaningful content regarding our city (yes, I too am a native–Cap Hill, born and raised). Oh and the reason Seattle Met looks like Portland Monthly is because they are published by the same people–not for lack of originality. P.S. I like Tamarind Tree and so does Seattle Mag. They give props to Green Leaf too. Cheers.

  11. Yes yes, I’ve already posted a clarification so yes, I understand that I got the two mixed up. But for good reason, I suppose.

    And yes, I figured out that PDX monthly and Seattle Met were published by the same folks. Otherwise I’m sure there’d be lawsuits all over the place! 🙂

    And yes, I did take a minute to persue the content of both publications (I find it hard to not look at them in the grocery aisle!) and yes, there’s some good information but on the whole, they make me want to start my own magazine for Seattle history nerds who’d like to see more attention paid to Seattle’s really fascinating past. I have this fear that our history will be whitewashed and transplants will think that Starbucks really is the only interesting thing about Seattle.

    Haven’t tried Green Leaf yet but I’ll be sure to check it out!

  12. There is quite a big difference between Seattle mag and Seattle Met. Seattle Mag is the original kid grown up and takes chances. Seattle met just came here to make money and has no clue what Seattle is about- for pete’s sake they call this place Sea town. Big error on your part confusing the 2- if you did -imagine the other folk- now that you admit you made a mistake your title is harsh!

  13. As someone who is interested in moving to the Seattle area I was going to read and subscribe to the Seattle Magazine to get a feel for the area. After reading this I am not so sure this would be the best resource for information. What would you suggest reading?

  14. Gosh, that is a hard one. It depends on your lifestyle. I’m an urban 20-something so I tend to read The Stranger (our alternative weekly) which has a near comprehensive list of happenings around town. Seattle Weekly ( is another weekly with articles, calendars, etc. without as much profanity. 🙂 Both publications have great restaurant sections!

    If you’re considering relocating, I’d take a weekend trip out here to feel it out. It’s always hard to get a true sense of place simply from reading things about it. I’d be happy to set up an itinerary! 🙂

  15. Actually I am coming to the Seattle area for just that purpose Jan 27 – Feb 1. I would welcome any suggestions on places to visit and see. I too am a 20 something young professional with a 5 year old child.
    Thank you.

  16. I’d recommend Ecstatic Dance:

    It’s the type of place you can let your kids dance all their energy out and mom can move too (and probably put the kids to bed early that night!)

    I also posted my Top 11 list of things to do in Seattle shortly after I posted this so dig around and see if you can find it. Most of the events on that list are kid-friendly.

    Good luck!

  17. Hi Fluvial–

    Well, Portland Monthly did end up publishing my missive! But, they edited it. How can they edit a letter to the editor?! They removed 2 key sentences that were important to me. Without them, I sound like an imbalanced relative of the Unabomber’s; my intent is totally distorted, alienating a section of their readership I did not want to include. I suppose that was their intent: spinning it for their benefit. It just irks me that they invite public comment and then take liberties to tweak that comment for hype. Live and learn.

    I’d sure like to see another magazine on the market–here and in Seattle–that has some depth and far fewer glossy ads for loft condos!

    Thanks for giving us an edit-free forum to vent!

  18. That’s so lame! However, for the sake of total transparency…I edit comments sometimes (especially if they contain profanity) but I’m not a for-profit publication!

    Vent away. All of this is making me really want to start an indie publication for folks of like mind. In your opinion, what’s the best format for that? Website? Blog? Print?

  19. Oh, and PDXer…how are you doing with all this rain we’ve been having?! I hear I-5 is currently closed blocking the main route between our fair cities!!

  20. Hola,

    PDXer here again. I do understand about editing for length and profanity, but my sentences weren’t profane. And the other letters to the editor were longer. Their omission definitely changed the context though.

    As for a forum for like-minded folks to read about local lore, I think a blog would be a good place to test the waters, with a quarterly or bi-monthly version in print being the ultimate goal.

    I can’t believe I-5 is still closed. That’s a doozy for a lot of commuters and commercial traffic. We’re drying out down here. Our basement flooded, but we’re lucky the damage was minimal.

  21. Boo! Basement flooding = bad!

    I only mentioned that I edit comments because otherwise I would have been flooded (no pun intended) with nasty comments saying ‘You editted MY comments you stupid $#%(‘ , etc. I’m trying to mitigate that. 🙂 People get much more ‘colorful’ when it’s all anonymous. hehe.

    Let the record show though…their edits changed the tone of your letter! I’m curious to read before and after versions. Care to post them?

  22. Geez oh Geez….. I hear you on so many fronts but also you need to wake up! I have lived in Seattle basically my whole life and although I still own a place in QA and am going to rent it for a couple years I am going down the coast and going to give Portland a try.

    Its funny how to me anyways Portland has the feel of what Seattle used to be. As much as people bitch about how bad Seattle is getting(anyone been to Ballard lately?) it seems like we bitch and moan and then get passive aggressive (My favorite NW activity and yes i know it exists in Portland) and nothing happens and the developers keep cashing those checks because the truth is if you compare real estate prices to the places people are coming from (LA, SF, NYC) we are cheaper by a long shot.

    The whole Ballard Googlie(IF I am spelling this correctly) Dennys save the watch tower thing to me was the last straw.

    Ballard is turning into condo cantina but we really say nothing until we want to save Dennys. This rivals the monorail in its absurdity.

    Hey.. I know in 5 years Portland could be the same way but honestly I get the feeling they have a bit of a plan instead of build wherever.The other thing that has struck me in being in both places is Portland seems to build new from old (remodeling old buildings) where here it seems like blow up old and build the condos that look like they are stacking ship container boxes of red, yellow and blue. Of course Portland is not perfect but it seems like they have a better idea.

    One more thought and I will leave you all alone. It was always interesting to me how people always ripped on the eastside for having been southern californicated. As much as I disliked hearing that for the most part it was true. The sad part is a lot of Seattle neighborhoods are becoming the eastside with the cars and the clothes and the KIDS and that flippin “to cool for school” crap that is definitely what someone mentioned much earlier in this blog which goes back to this complex we have taken on.

    Anyways thanks for your time and maybe see you in 5 years?

  23. I work in Ballard and pass the Dennys every day and quite honestly, I’d rather see that building go but have Sunset Bowl stay. We need something to do other than shop in this city! The irony is, every time I’ve gone to Sunset, the wait has been over two hours for a lane so I haven’t bowled there in years. 🙂

    Here’s my ‘professional’ take on PDX. (I’m an environmental planner and studied some urban design in college) I think Portland falls under the category of ‘forgotten city’. Let me explain. I think Portland has always been smaller than Seattle and was overlooked by massive developers (when compared to Seattle and Vancouver, BC). So, gorgeous old buildings just sorta stayed where they were because no one was clamouring for the land. Once PDX was discovered, historic preservation movements had already gained traction and the old buildings stayed. Very conveniant and quite awesome. Portland has a fabulous historic feel to it and I wish Seattle had been more mindful in that regard.

    That being said, I think I’d go nuts living in Portland. The first reason being that it’s too small for my taste. The second being that it’s populated with the ex girlfriends of boyfriends past and present! 🙂 It’s weird. It’s like they break up with the guys and then migrate south! (the second reason is more of a joke than anything else)

    I hear you on the ‘eastsideification’ bit. I guess I remain optimistic that we’ll always have Pike Place Market with all the weird produce and fish, homeless guys on Broadway who tell you that you’ve dropped your smile (that happened to me…it was sweet), and enough of a Burning Man community to keep things weird.

    The thing I miss most right now though? The Pony. Hands down. Hot damn, I miss that bar!!

  24. Just wanted to leave a quick word of thanks for this blog–I’ve just been stationed in Everett, and was looking for a “New Yorker”-like mag to tell me all about Seattle. And now I’ve got two great sites to visit while I’m on deployment! Here’s to returning in September w/a long list of places to explore!

  25. I hope you’re not talking about the magazines I ranted about! If so, you missed the whole point of the entry. 🙂

  26. lol No, I’m talking about the websites you mentioned, Silly! 🙂 But while I’ve been enjoying The Stranger and Seattle Weekly, I’m curious about your top 11 things to do in Seattle. Could you include a link here? Thanks again!

  27. Here ya go!

  28. You have done a great job and I look forward to reading more about the area from your site…. thank you for the wonderful ideas…..

  29. Dearest fluvial,

    Thanks for the comments and I agree with you on most of what you said. If Pike Market ever goes then its FOR SALE city. That is and always will be an amazing place. With or without all the tourists. To think it almost came down is very very scary. The chances of that happening again are slim.

    SO you work in Ballard. Boy that is a neighborhood that is cjanging a lot. If they ever f with Ballard Avenue forget it. It is so cool over there. On a somewhat similiar note I was hired to take pictures (I am a photog / web designer) in Queen Anne and Wallingford for an author doing a book on Seattle neighborhoods and hold crap… A real disturbing thing I have noticed is they are starting to blow up old horses and build 4 townhouses on a lot in this gross shingle style which is perfect if you live right on the ocean but in 2-5 years those buildings are going to look like crap.

    We will see. I hope to be back in a couple years and see how things shake out. No matter what I say here I do want to come back. Seattle is one of the collest places I believe in the world.

    The funny thing is you mentioning Vancouver. I get up there a lot for clients and to me even thought its getting developed as much as here they seem to be doing a much much better job? Who flippin knows?

    Again thanks for the insight. It made a lot of sense to me….

  30. I agree with Larry. Comparing Seattle and Vancouver is not a good thing. Vancouver HAS a plan and the issue with Seattle is they DO NOT. You have to step up to the plate early on. Not in the 23rd hour when its pretty much a fore gone conclusion.

    A little history here as I speak from a little experience as I used to work for the city of emerald in the planning department.

    – Portland is yes smaller but really not that much(check out the numbers) and basically they had and still have a plan. Its really that simple.

    – Vancouver also has a plan regardless of the Olympics. The way they have gotten families to move into the downtown area is amazing.

    – Seattle has really never had a plan. As a colleague of mine used to say its like the perfect storm of bad liberals (people that talk to they are blue in the face but never accomplish anything). these are the same people that bitch and moan once the alternative is in place. Yes I am totally a liberal so I think people with an open mind know who I speak! ha.. Secondly it always seems in our town like it comes down to the developer with the deepest pockets doing whatever he wants and dictating zoning code. Please see eastlake and Denny triangle brought to you by Paul Allen and Vulcan. The funny thing is personally I do not have issues with what is going on over there except that I think if you were going home the least bit tipsy you might go into the wrong buildings because a lot of them are very similar but this ails a lot of urban areas and is not unique to Seattle.

    Lastly, in all the years I have lived here as much as people SAY they get involved it all goes back to my earlier point of the Sonics. I have my theories but it seems like people bury there heads in the sand until its almost to late. All those people that are upset about Sunset Bowl ( I live down the street from there), where the frig were they as all these square boxes were being built around Ballard and turning it into Kirkland? I mean so we saved the Denny’s thank goodness (sarcasm) but once you walk in the door cover your eyes to the beauty that is condo land! Again I understand some of the buildings that came down were yikes! at best but there is NO continuity in these projects. Its like the developer saved 50K using the same blue prints over and over and over again.

    I love my town more than anything. Its a love affair that has lasted forever. If you do not like what is going on REALLY get involved. Do not pay lip service. this is our town.

  31. Hi Kathy-

    Thanks for your input. You’ll notice that I made edits to your comment to take out the majority of the inflammatory comments that were rude and attacked other people. If you’re going to comment, you need to play nice…at least on my blog.

    Now onto the meaty part…did you read my original entry at all? The whole point of it was to share my distaste for the Kirklandification of cool Seattle neighborhoods.

    Also, you’re totally right when you say Seattle didn’t/doesn’t have a plan. Umm..I want to know what the city planners were thinking when they designed I-5 through the downtown corridor!

    There are ton of dedicated neighborhood advocates who’ve been fighting for years against condo developments and big box stores but they’re usually drown out by loud developers who make arguments touting financial rewards resulting from their projects. Money talks and usually wins which explains why Ballard looks terrible. I should know…I work here. 🙂

    In regards to you saying that I compared Seattle to Vancouver..I think you misunderstood me. Vancouver is the gold standard of northwestern urban planning right now (not to say that it doesn’t have does…but it’s still held in high regard). This started way before the Olympics so I’m not sure why you mentioned that..I certainly didn’t in my original argument. In saying that Portland is smaller than Seattle, that was purely subjective. To me, it just has a smaller neighborhood-y feel and I’ve spent enough time there to know that it’s just not my style(not bad mouthing portland..I just prefer living in Seattle). Sorry if that was unclear.

    Here’s what I meant by ‘forgotten city’: The post-war building boom is responsible for the majority of atrocious buildings and off-kilter urban design in Seattle. We had a World’s Fair in 1962 which basically put Seattle on the fast track for the spotlight. Soo…I think planners just went nuts and didn’t really think about the impact that their designs would have on the future. I’m willing to guess that the term ‘Growth Management’ didn’t even exist at that point. Consequently, a lot of really rich historical buildings were torn down in favor of ‘modern’ ones, and the whole city sorta went nuts trying to prepare for this.

    Contrast this with Portland. They had their World Fair in 1905 so the building frenzy that went on for that was on a smaller scale and the buildings that were constructed are now considered gorgeous and historic. Post-war Portland and the years following saw urban planning at much more leisurely pace. As the discipline grew up, Portland was afforded the opportunity to educate their community, incorporate new ideas, etc. Granted, there are still ugly mid-century buildings in Portland too but it seems like they’ve preserved more of their historic buildings and designed their city better.

    So, in conclusion…go back and read my original entry. I think you’ll see that we’re on the same page.

    And please keep the personal attacks to a minimum.

  32. Is it possible to subscribe to either the Weekly or the Stranger? I’m a Seattlite living in Washington, D.C., and Seattle Magazine is just about the only thing about the city that will travel this far. I agree with your rant, though, and I’d love to find an alternative!

  33. Elina – Sorry it took me so long to respond! I checked The Stranger’s website and I couldn’t find anything about subscribing to a print edition. However, the website has all the content of the print version (except maybe the escort ads…arguably the best part!) so at least you won’t be totally starved for Seattle information.

    Have fun in DC! I’ve got a bunch of friends out there and they love it.

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