Radar is a brand-new magazine that just published its first issue, and already it's making me grumpy. But maybe that's because my expectations were too high.

It wasn't the hype that fueled my expectations, although there's certainly been plenty of hype. It was Editor in Chief Maer Roshan's letter to Radar readers. In it, Roshan, a former editor at New York and Talk magazines, confesses that he thinks mags have gone stale.

"When I began my first job 15 years ago, magazines hummed with ideas and energy," Roshan writes. "But in the intervening years many magazines were subsumed by large conglomerates, and much of their irreverence and vitality was sapped from them. Vision and risk-taking were replaced by focus groups and stale editorial formulas."

In response, Roshan and some friends from the Manhattan magazine world decided to raise money and start an independent mag designed to be "smart but not pretentious, stylish but not superficial, irreverent but not cynical" -- and, most important, "a magazine that would not be beholden to focus groups or publishing experts or publicists."

Reading that, I thought, Hallelujah! Roshan is right: The magazine business is stale for exactly the reasons he suggests and America does need a mag like the one he describes. Unfortunately, Radar isn't it -- at least not yet.

Radar turns out to be a lot like many other mags: full of stories on celebrities, interviews with celebrities and photos of celebrities. The main difference is that Radar treats the stars not with the usual fawning flattery but with condescension and scorn. Madonna is mocked. So is Michael Jackson. And the cover story, "Monsters' Ball," is a flippant compendium of 65 celebs who are arrogant or abusive.

That might sound like fun, but is anybody really surprised to learn that Courtney Love is nasty? Or that Suge Knight is vicious? Or that Rosie O'Donnell and Michael Moore are obnoxious? Or that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is nasty, vicious and obnoxious?

I've got news for Roshan: Trashing celebrities is neither new nor courageous. The National Enquirer does it every week. If you want to show real courage as a magazine editor, try ignoring celebrities unless they actually do something important, or at least interesting.

There are some real stories in Radar, and they are pretty good. Jonathan Van Meter's profile of presidential candidate Howard Dean is better than most of the other half-dozen Dean profiles I've read in recent months. And the story on Noelle Bush by veteran political reporter Jim DeFede told me more about the troubled daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and her family than anything I've read elsewhere.

But my favorite piece is the oddest one: "Kinko Nation," novelist Meghan Daum's essay on the Kinko's outlet on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and the strange folks who hang out there. The piece is wildly overwritten, full of dubious philosophizing about the cosmic meaning of Kinko's. ("There is something about Kinko's -- any Kinko's -- that seems to encapsulate the current anxious state of the American psyche.") But it does have an energy and playfulness that's charming.

Best of all, the article hints at what life is like in the America populated by the folks celebrity magazines ignore -- a woman who introduces herself by saying "I'm a B-movie actress" and her boyfriend, a frenetic former investment banker who now markets a vague line of products he touts as "specifically designed to broaden one's horizons, opening minds to alternative realms, revelations, and realities, and questioning all that history has taught us, from the beginning of time."

America teems with strange, interesting people like that couple. If Radar covers them, it truly will be something new and exciting. If it dwells on celebrities, it will become merely a smarter, snottier version of Us magazine.

The choice is up to Roshan. After that letter to his readers, he won't be able to blame it on focus groups or corporate wimps.

No Shame Fortune sometimes seems like a mild-mannered business magazine, but when it gets mad, it becomes a tenacious, muckraking magazine, perhaps the best in America on the subject of corporate greed and chicanery.

Last year Fortune published an enraged expose{acute} on corporate crime and touted it with a cover headline that screamed: "It's Time to Stop Coddling White-Collar Crooks. Send Them to Jail."

Now, Fortune's cover shows a pig clad in a fancy pinstriped suit next to a headline that says: "Oink! CEO Pay Is Still Out of Control." Inside, there are more cartoons of corporate pigs and the headline reads: "Have They No Shame?"

The two stories that follow -- painstakingly reported and written by Jerry Useem and Janice Revell -- lay out all the details on how America's swinish CEOs gobbled up millions of dollars in salary and benefits while their companies' stock plummeted.

Back in the '90s, you'll recall, high-flying CEOs justified their obscene wealth by pointing to their corporations' rising stock prices. So now, when stocks are tanking, you might think they'd take a humbling pay cut. But you'd be wrong. Instead, with the collusion of their cronies on the corporate board, they rewrite their contracts to make sure their pay rises no matter how badly the company performs.

"Take Disney's Michael Eisner," writes Useem. "After he failed to clear his bonus hurdle two years running, his board lowered the performance bar, and then -- hooray! -- he finally cleared it. An Olympian effort worth $5 million."

Eisner is hardly the worst offender. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, made $78 million last year while his shareholders' return declined by 34 percent. And Pat Russo, CEO of Lucent Technologies, made $38 million while her company's shareholder return declined by more than 75 percent.

The latest scam, Revell reveals, is to hide CEO pay in ludicrously lucrative retirement packages that magically credit the executives with years -- or even decades! -- of service they never performed.

Among the worst offenders cited is John Snow -- President Bush's new secretary of the Treasury. When Snow retired as CEO of CSX in January, CSX's board credited him with an extra 19 years of service, and he walked away with a lump-sum pension of $33 million.

Fattened on that cash, he joined an administration that advocates a new rule that would enable corporations to "cut the pensions of older workers by 50 percent."

Oink! Oink!

The first issue of Radar, which wants to discover fresh ideas but finds a lot of celebrities instead.Normally mild-mannered Fortune in a muckraking mood.