Free Magazine Review: Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family

Where did it come from? A loved one recently went on a work trip to Gadsden and brought this back as a souvenir. He knows I love a good free magazine. And because Gadsden just finished its star turn in the national media thanks to senatorial candidate/noted moralist/Tiger Beat enthusiast Roy Moore’s supposed lifetime ban from the Gadsden Mall, I wanted to know more about life up there.

Who publishes it? Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family is put out by Carlton Publishing, Inc. They are based in Gadsden and not to be confused with Carlton Publishing Group, which is a real thing. It’s a larger format publication that seems like it might come out every month. Unlike a lot of free magazines, this one has a mission statement. It says, in part, that the magazine “exists to provide Christians and the community at large with ways to grow and develop as part of Alabama’s Christian Family. The local publication is designed to promote positive living by sharing with readers the latest news on entertainment, healthy living, parenting and inspirational literature as well as what individuals and organizations are doing to try to address the needs of the family.” That’s a lot to get through in 35 pages.

Who’s on the cover? In July, it’s Miss Alabama Callie Walker, shown making a grateful pageant face while another woman places the winning tiara on Walker’s head. The cover story takes up the magazine’s two middle pages and is printed on a distracting color background of roses. The headline is “Taking the Stage with Faithful Confidence,” which made me curious about what unfaithful confidence might look like. The story itself is broken up into “Art Facts,” Faith Facts,” and “Trash Talk.” I did not know this about the job of being Miss Alabama, but evidently one part of it is having a “platform,” like a political candidate. Walker’s seems to be recycling, which the story’s author, Camille Smith Platt, describes as “sustainability.” Walker wants schools across Alabama to adopt recycling programs to preserve the earth, which she says was given to us by the Lord.

Recycling, as it happens, is a particularly touchy topic here in Montgomery, where we’ve recently been told that our local recycling plant – the one that shut down, leaving the city to pay the tab for a giant unused facility that did not expect that people would try to throw dirty diapers in the trash – will be reopened by a new contractor with a plan to use the plant to recycle while turning excess trash into fuel. Yes, that seems like it will totally work.

Meanwhile, the evidence is accumulating that consumer recycling is kind of a scam. China’s not accepting recyclable materials much any more, so there’s nowhere to put stuff, and it’s mostly going into the landfill. Read this article about it if you’ve got some doubts. But having kids recycle has some obvious appeal as a lasting solution to the many problems facing Alabama, so it’s pretty clear why this was a winning issue for Miss Alabama.

According to http://www.winningthroughpageantry.com. a good pageant platform offers a specific solution to a cause that you are particularly passionate about. The author includes a list of causes from recent Miss America pageants to give ideas. These include “Global Awareness” (presumably a rebuke to the Flat-Earthers) and “Internet/Social Media Safety” (Be Best, y’all). You can also pay the site’s administrator money to receive their advice for winning at pageants. As an aside, the pageant Internet is pretty intense – there’s a whole economy of pageant consultants lobbying for money from tiara-seekers. Everything I personally know about beauty pageants I learned from watching The Simpsons, so all of this was new to me.

What else is in the magazine? A number of what seem to be regular features (“Humor in Holy Places,” “An Encouraging Word,” “Kids Korner”) whose pictured authors all seem to be white women. Many of their biographies emphasize the writer’s availability for speaking engagements. My favorite column was “Legal Matters,” whose name makes it seem like you might be getting an update on the law somehow. This month, authors Myron Allenstein and Rose Allenstein, have chosen to cite scripture extensively (including several block quotes) to support their contention that freedom comes from God. They do not mention all of the slavery in the Old Testament. The column itself has a little bit of a Fourth of July theme, but it’s very unclear what this has to do with the law.

Several columns appear on the same page as an advertisement for the author’s local business. This is true for “Healthy Living,” written by the owners of Apple a Day Health World. This column, which offers extremely specific advice about the exact amounts of at least 15 vitamins and nutrients, features a footer that informs the reader that “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.” Evidently the magazine’s commitment to “positive living” does not extend to “scientific living.”

The end of the magazine features a July calendar of events and homemade ads for works by local writers, including for a self-published thriller whose blurb promises that “the details of Pastor Jack Pate’s fall from his lofty pedestal to the depths of sin’s depravity mesmerize readers throughout this suspenseful novel.” Ripped from the headlines.

Who is reading this? Christian families, presumably. And people looking for a coupon for Stevi B’s Ultimate Pizza Buffet. By branding itself as “Your source for GOOD news!” it’s maybe for readers who find the Anniston Star or the Daily Mountain Eagle too gloomy, who want to peruse an endless series of full-color ads for local businesses punctuated by parfait recipes, tips for diabetic foot care, and tips for those with breathing problems. The core audience probably overlaps a lot with the people who enjoy receiving those coupons in their postal box (“It’s like getting money in the mail!”) and who clip and save advice columns to mail, in a passive aggressive fashion, to relatives that they secretly dislike.

Sometimes a free magazine teaches you a lot about a place, or at least about the editor’s vision of a place. Sometimes it gives you a few chuckles while you wait to get your oil changed. And then sometimes it just leaves you feeling a little closer to death, having spent time within its pages. Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family is closest to the latter. Mostly recommended for lining guinea pig confines and lining raised garden beds.

 

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