When did the so-called news magazines get as subtle as Hustler?
There are many magazines and it isn’t fair to lump them all together. But one consistent thing about magazines that differs, for example, from the Northwest Herald is that they have one cover story that tries to hit the home run, similar to tabloid newspapers.
There’s nothing wrong with the tabloids’ approach; it’s just different.
By comparison, at a broadsheet local newspaper, single copies aren’t our bread and butter, so the hackneyed complaint that we wrote a story only to “sell newspapers” isn’t really apt. When you see kids in flat caps hawking “Extra” editions at the Pingree Road train station, perhaps the pendulum has swung the other way again.
With magazines, single-copy sales matter, and they love it when they have a story with buzz from other online, print, social or broadcast media. Two recent magazines – Time Magazine and Atlantic Monthly – were fortunate enough to get the splash they were looking for.
Unless you’re a niche magazine, we all know sex sells. But what else does? Is it playing on people’s insecurities? Is it guilt?
Time hit the trifecta with a May cover story and an image of a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old standing on a stool. You can argue whether a breast-feeding image should be considered sexual. The image has multiple layers, but Time knew what it was doing.
Almost as striking as the image was the cover headline: “Are You Mom Enough?” It teases to a story about attachment parenting that essentially concluded that working mothers are falling short.
The Atlantic continued the theme this month with the cover story “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” It’s an excruciatingly long, self-important piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, that I admittedly couldn’t finish.
The magazine seeks a higher-browed audience, so instead of going with sex in an image, they instead poured heavy guilt gravy over the entree with a picture of a baby peeking out of mom’s briefcase.
It’s nearly impossible not to be cynical about exactly what magazine executives were doing and why. Who buys magazines? Women. What’s most important to women? For modern women, it’s not much different from what’s important to men: family and career. It’s the priorities that shift.
I’m generalizing, but we’re talking about manipulation so sensitivity doesn’t enter the picture. The next cynical question is: What’s emotionally different about moms that we can exploit? That’s easy: guilt.
Asking women whether they’re mom enough is as offensive as it gets. And can we please get over the notion of “having it all.” This isn’t 1972. There are still equality matters to be resolved, but women have had tremendous professional success for decades now. Many of them are mothers, too.
No one ever had it all. Working fathers and working mothers make compromises each day. Sometimes each hour. There is no “all.” There never was an “all.”
It may be our life, but that doesn’t mean our kids or our employers revolve around us. You either roll with it and figure out how to navigate working-parent life or you read magazines that prey on your insecurities and make a appointment with a psychiatrist.
• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at email@example.com.