People send us their newspapers and magazines. Sometimes, we review them.

Oklahoma Today, Jan/Feb 2009

Oklahoma Today says it’s been “The Magazine of Oklahoma Since 1956.” And, according to the reader letters in its Jan/Feb 2009 issue, it’s done a pretty good job. “Thanks for putting out such a proud-of-our-state publication.” “You performed beautifully.” To the editor-in-chief: “You’re an amazing woman.” “I love Oklahoma Today.”

The pages that follow don’t entirely live up to the high praise—but then again, it’s pretty high praise. They’re mostly short, cute, and Okie-centric, with an anthropological tinge that I assume I detect because I’m not an Okie myself. There’s a story about the Great Backyard Bird Count, which apparently has detected a shift in the state’s dove population—Oklahoma used to be mourning dove territory, but nowadays there’s been a dramatic increase in Eurasian collared, white-winged, and Inca doves. There’s an article about a boy and his dog—”Travis and Presley Brorsen”—who won the canine reality show competition Greatest American Dog. (In case dogs aren’t your thing, there’s a sidebar with other Oklahoma reality stars, including David Cook, who won season 7 of American Idol.)

Turn the page and you get a new-kid-on-the-block story—a Q&A with the grinning twenty-year-old Republican mayor of Muskogee, elected last May with 70 percent of the vote. (On his freetime activities: “I play Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Halo 3, and Kingdom Hearts video games.” His favorite moment of the RNC: “Meeting Rudy Giuliani.”)

The cover story tells the tale of Clayton I. Bennett, the chairman of the NBA’s newest franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the magazine’s Oklahoman of the Year. Bennett, responsible for relocating the team from Seattle (then-Sonics), is introduced as a “home-grown thunder god,” conjuring the image of Zeus parking himself at the sidelines in the Ford Center.

The best thing about the magazine is undoubtedly its last page quiz feature, “Where Are You?”, which asks readers to identify a different local historic building each issue. The previous issue’s answer? “The National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague.” -Jane Kim

Playboy, February 2009

Let’s leave the question of whether pornography exploits women for another day. Playboy is a magazine with comparatively tame pictures of naked ladies, and plenty of smart writing to accompany them. Yes, you can read the magazine for the articles. I’ve been doing it for fifteen years.

For those who wail about the demise of long-form non-fiction, Playboy does its best to support the genre on a monthly basis. This month’s issue features a piece, from The Nation’s Christian Parenti, about the growth of the drug trade in Guinea-Bissau. Like the situation in Mexico, journalists who cover trafficking are in danger:

In Bissau’s weekly newspapers and on one of its community radio stations, a few local journalists have had the guts to report on the government’s links to drug traffickers. But the price has been high. One writer, Allen Yero Emballo, had his home raided by the military. He was beaten, and his papers were seized. As the soldiers departed they told him, ‘Next time we’ll leave the papers and just take your head.’ Emballo soon decamped for France.

Playboy may be a men’s magazine, but there’s plenty to draw readers of both genders. This issue offers two Q&As, the first with House actor Hugh Laurie, and the second with Lost star Josh Holloway. There’s a requisite car article highlighting the best cars of 2009, but it’s pretty progressive—the compact, fuel-efficient Mini Cooper was chosen as the best family car.

In CJR’s last issue, author Gary Andrew Poole urged sports writers to recapture the relevance of their genre. Playboy’s, Steve Salerno delivers with a captivating look at the life and times of NFL officials. The piece is full of personality and on-the-ground action, and it’s fun to read, even for a non-football fan. Called “zebras,” professional football referees offer a fascinating perspective on the game:

With The Play developing between, Rose and Cheek search for their keys. So intent is Rose on wideout Plaxico Burress that he’s the only crew member unaware of the world of hurt Manning is in. Meanwhile, Cheek picks up Toomer, who just blew by Slaughter, in the process he spots Harrison closing on Tyree.

Suddenly Cheek sees Tyree jump. Man, he went up for that ball! Though Harrison is all over him, the play looks clean. Rose sees it too: The ball appears to be pasted cartoonishly to Tyree’s helmet. Rose thinks, If he hits the turf, I’m gonna say ‘Incomplete! Incomplete

CJR Staff is a contributor to CJR.