The Dying Magazine Blues
I love magazines, which is why I am sad that they’re doomed. How do I know they’re doomed?
I’ve read about it, of course. In magazines.
Not only that, but for years I processed the incoming periodicals at the library where I work, which means I could actually see them dwindling before my eyes. What once were fat monthly issues became alarmingly thin. Monthlies increasingly resorted to publishing double issues. New York, always my favorite weekly, now comes out every other week.
And once-loved titles are folding like crazy. Gourmet! Ladies Home Journal! Spin! All gone.
Growing up in the ’60s, who could have imagined a world without magazines? No Life? No Look? Unthinkable! Magazines helped teach us to read. And explained the world to us. The Kennedy assassination? The first moon walk? We watched them on TV. But magazines helped us understand.
My first Highlights for Kids subscription meant that finally, I was a real reader.
How on earth could I have filled my “Man From Uncle” scrapbook without Tiger Beat?
And who can forget being old enough to subscribe to Mad Magazine? Now there was a milestone!
Growing up, I read my mother’s copies of Redbook, Ladies Home Journal and McCalls and relished “Can this marriage be saved?” before I had any real idea of what a marriage actually was. And I snuck peaks at Dad’s copies of Esquire, especially their annual “Dubious Achievement Awards,” issue, even though the contents, went, for the most part, right over my head.
As a teen, when I began to babysit? The first thing I did after the little darlings fell asleep was locate the hidden Playboys (usually in the bedside table, the closet, or the bathroom) and marvel at those amazing “girls next door.”
I looked forward to having my very own McCalls and Playboy subscriptions when I grew up.
Some periodicals still manage to thrive. The last issue of Vogue was so big I could barely lift it, as fat with ads as the models within were skinny. (And so pungent with perfume ads you could smell it across the room.)
People will endure. We’ll never grow tired of celebrity gossip. Sports Illustrated is still going strong. And Martha Stewart Wedding will undoubtedly be around as long as women dream of finding both Mr. Right and a fabulous gown to marry him in.
But U.S. News and World Report? McCalls? More? Gone.
I’m doing what I can to keep the magazine industry afloat. I subscribe to dozens. Time. The Week. The New Yorker. Entertainment Weekly. Rolling Stone. Town & Country. New York. The Funny Times. The Gay & Lesbian Review.
Others, I read at the library. Travel & Leisure. Out. Oprah.
I may be a librarian and an intellectual, but for years I even subscribed to The National Enquirer. I blamed Avi and Winifred, my doves. “It’s pages are exactly the right size to line the birdcage!” I told my friends. Although the truth was that I loved my weekly fix of odd stories, health-related tips and juicy celebrity gossip.
Admittedly, I’m, by nature, rather retro. I’d rather walk than drive. I’d rather read a book than download it. I’d rather talk than text. I’m a dinosaur, a remnant of the world I grew up in, where what you read on a page had more cultural heft than what you watched on a screen.
Sure, I spend hours reading online, just like you do. I’m addicted to Medium. I love the immediacy of it, and all the terrific writing, and the variety of voices that are available to me here.
But at the end of the day? I still want to turn pages.
I’m a writer. Two years ago, I finally made it into the pages of Money magazine. After which? The magazine folded.
In my heart I know this wasn’t cause and effect. I didn’t really kill Money magazine.
But? It kind of felt like it.
Reader’s Digest has run several of my humor pieces. I have a new one I’ve been thinking of sending them.
Maybe I’d better hold off.
( Writing Coach and Medium Sherpa Roz Warren writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, has been in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, and is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: Library Humor . Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.)