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Issue for June 2013

The Most Influential Print Magazine Editors?

Posted on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Earlier this month, Port magazine sparked quite the controversy with its Summer 2013 cover.

By Meredith L. Dias

Quarterly men's magazine Port released the cover of its Summer 2013 issue, which boldly declares a "new golden age" in print publishing. The feature, which emphasizes the "increasing importance of print media," focuses on the six magazine editors Port considers to be the most influential in the business.

In theory, this could have been the feel-good article of the year. It comes at a time when the magazine conversation has been focused almost entirely on digital, and good news about print has been sometimes hard to find. However, instead of sparking widespread discussion of the current state of print media, the article made waves because the league of extraordinary editors consisted entirely of white men.

The Industry Reaction

While Port's selections might not come as a surprise given its target demographic, the media reaction to the cover was swift and, in some cases, brutal. Headlines included:

--"The 'Golden Age' of Magazines, Brought to You by White Dudes" (Salon.com)
--"Magazine Heralds a New Golden Age of Print with Six Old White Guys on Its Cover" (Slate.com)
--"It's Still a Golden Age of Magazine Publishing for White Dudes" (TheAtlanticWire.com)
--"This Magazine Thinks Only White Men Contribute to the Golden Age of Print" (PolicyMic.com)

Commentary and analysis have run a pretty wide gamut. In the TheAtlanticWire.com piece, Connor Simpson writes, "White guys like Paul Thomas Anderson and Will Ferrell have appeared on the last six covers of the quarterly, so the all-white dude lineup of the 'New Golden Age' issue wasn't out of keeping. But if they were going to put six guys on the cover, why not find at least one editor who is a person of color or female or both?"

Alyssa Rosenberg of Slate.com agrees that Port's choice is "not particularly surprising." However, she doesn't let the magazine off the hook for its choice of industry-leading editors: "The choice of these particular six white men, most of whom represent legacy publications (GQ, the New York Times Magazine), suggests that Port has an amazingly conservative understanding of what constitutes the new golden age."

Danielle Paradis of PolicyMic.com summed up the problem at the end of her article: "If the editors of Port magazine are having trouble finding women editors, it may be due to the thickness of the glass, and vanilla ceiling."

Other female editors and journalists took to their respective websites and blogs to voice their outrage over the industry roundup that neglected them in such striking visual fashion. Evette Dionne, daily editor of Clutch magazine, published an article entitled, "Dear Sexists, Women Offer Serious Journalism." Maya Dusenbery, a contributor at Feministing.com, published "Magazine Cover Featuring Six Old White Dude-itors Prompts #WomenEdsWeLove."

The Social Media Reaction

Dusenbery's headline brings us to the social media reaction. Men and women alike flocked to Twitter and Facebook to pay homage to their favorite women editors. Amy Wallace, editor-at-large for Los Angeles magazine and a GQ correspondent, started a Twitter hashtag frenzy with #WomenEdsWeLove. The hashtag became so popular that Poynter.org featured it in a recent piece, "#WomenEdsWeLove Creator: 'Female Editors 'Are Not Invisible' & 'They're Not That Hard to Find.'"

The magazine cover also made it over to social blogging site Tumblr, where it was featured on the 100 Percent Men "Boys Clubs" page, whose description reads, "Corners of the world where women have yet to tread."

Port's Response

The outcry over the Summer 2013 issue has forced Port editor-in-chief Dan Crowe into the spotlight to defend the cover. His initial statement added fuel to the fire: "It is a shame there isn't, for example, a gay person or black woman editor in there, but unfortunately these are not the people editing these magazines." Evette Dionne of Clutch magazine responded, "Crowe's excuses highlight an issue often not discussed in the magazine business. Publications geared toward women, specifically women of color, are not considered 'serious' or 'thought-provoking' enough to be included in the new, golden age of publishing." Similar discussions about the "seriousness" (or perceived lack thereof) in women's journalism have raged nonstop since the release of the Port cover.

On Friday, Crowe amended his initial statement: "I really don't care who edits those magazines, if they were all black, or all white, or all women, or all men, or rabbits -- I don't care. I'm aware that -- and I was aware -- that putting five [sic] white guys on the cover was going to be difficult, but you know, tough s**t. That's my opinion."

Rounding Up the Controversy

The controversy over Port's cover isn't likely to die soon. It has sparked important industry-wide conversations and debates about the state of women's journalism and public perception of women's magazines. It has raised the question of whether or not there is an "old boys' club" at work in the magazine publishing industry. Nearly three weeks later, these conversations are going strong.

Lost in the commotion, however, is the topic that spawned the notorious cover in the first place: What are some of the successful strategies of thriving print magazines? Are we truly in a "golden era" of print magazine publishing?

Meredith L. Dias is senior editor of Editors Only.

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Book Review: Deadline Artists

Posted on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Reviewing Deadline Artists, America's Greatest Newspaper Columns, edited by John Avlon, Jesse Angelo, and Errol Louis.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Most of you probably have to deal with columns, if not also write them. Treat yourself to Deadline Artists, America's Greatest Newspaper Columns (Overlook Press), a scintillating collection of 168 pieces from which you will gain both an education and inspiration.

The book's three editors/collectors are John Avlon, senior columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast; Jesse Angelo, editor-in-chief of The Daily and the New York Post, and Errol Louis, a former columnist who serves as political anchor of NY1 News, a New York City–area television channel.

They claim to have read hundreds of columns, from which they chose the ones that fill the 400 pages of this anthology. In the process, they write in an introduction, "It has been striking to see which pieces endure. Those centered around storytelling and historic events best retain their power -- the more original reporting, the better. But what might be called the 'Mount Olympus' column, in which the author-analyst surveys the nation and passes policy pronouncements down from on high, tends not to age as well."

"A Voice Readers Understand"

They add that "columnists speak in a voice readers understand -- their own, but just a bit better. It is the voice of the bar room, the locker room, and the smoke-filled back room. It is a voice that comforts and confronts. A great column is both a witness and a work of art -- helping people understand the world around them while making them feel a little less alone."

A voice readers understand, that comforts and confronts, that is a witness to events and the lives of important or intriguing people, that offers us companionship: these are goals worth aiming for. You'll find also that the authors used their imagination while, at the same time, sticking to facts. There's no fiction in this book. Everything reflects the real, yet the reader finds himself or herself able to enter 168 thoughtful and tantalizingly re-created worlds, each evocative of a history, a moment, an experience, or a remembrance that matters, be it on a personal scale or larger, intimate or grand.

Included is the familiar, such as "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus," penned in 1897 by Francis Pharcellus Church of the New York Sun, in response to eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's letter stating, "Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN, it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"

Church insists Santa exists "as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence."

Included is the less familiar, such as Frederick Douglass' visionary "The Destiny of Colored Americans," written for the publication North Star in 1849, more than a decade before the Civil War. "The white man's happiness," said Douglass, "cannot be purchased by the black man's misery.... all distinctions, founded on complexion, ought to be repealed, repudiated and forever abolished."


There are lessons for us in every piece, perhaps in every paragraph, as human beings and as writers or editors. As writers and editors, let's just take beginnings, leads. You'll note how they draw the reader in through both a careful selection of compelling information and acute viewpoint.

When, for instance, Muhammad Ali retired in 1979, Jack Newfield marked the occasion and the man in New York's Village Voice. "Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee. And exit like a hero," Newfield wrote, and after a brief biographical paragraph, he continued: "We have burdened Ali with many identities. Symbol of the sixties. Draft dodger. Muslim evangelist. Most famous human on earth. Exile. People's champ. Braggart. Huckster. Manchild. Poet. Rebel. Survivor. He can be as funny as Richard Pryor. He can be as eloquent as Jesse Jackson. He is as charismatic as the Ayatollah.

"But basically he is a fighter, the greatest fighter of the age. He danced like Nureyev. He could stick like Manolete. And he could think like Einstein."

Consider the details recollected to prove a point. Consider the profile being drawn in words. Consider the down-to-earth writing. Consider the aura of respect being revealed in what Newfield labeled "basically a fan's notes, a farewell tribute to a public man who gave me pleasure."

Ernie Pyle wrote for Scripps-Howard in 1943 from Northern Tunisia about "The God-Damned Infantry." "We're now with an infantry outfit that has battled ceaselessly for four days and nights," his column tells us. "This northern warfare has been in the mountains. You don't ride much anymore. It is walking and climbing and crawling country. The mountains aren't big, but they are constant. They are largely treeless. They are easy to defend and bitter to take. But we are taking them. The Germans lie on the back slope of every ridge, deeply dug into foxholes. In front of them, the fields and pastures are hideous with thousands of hidden mines."

Pyle combines description and narrative as he relates what he has been experiencing on the front lines, his beat as self-chosen war correspondent for an anxious nation. The dispatch is laden with measured emotion and anxiety, with, again, respect, here for unnamed but very real heroes facing possible death on this particular day as well as days gone by and still to come.

Molly Ivins fashioned "A Short Story about the Vietnam War Memorial" for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982. The "she" written of in this impression-laced column, one suspects, is the writer herself. This is how Ivins begins: "She had known, ever since she first read about the Vietnam War Memorial that she would go there someday. Sometime she would be in Washington and would go and see his name and leave again.

"So silly, all that fuss about the memorial. Whatever else Vietnam was, it was not the kind of war that calls for some 'Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima' kind of statue. She was not prepared, though, for the impact of the memorial. To walk down into it to the pale winter sunshine was like the war itself, like going into a dark valley and damned if there was ever any light at the end of the tunnel. Just death. When you get closer to the two walls, the number of names starts to stun you. It is terrible, there in the peace and the pale sunshine."

One senses from the opening words Ivins' love for the lost and loathing for the war. Her reaction builds in a column of passion and powerful self-expression, underscored by a rush of facts supportive of the argument she unfolds in her "Short Story about...." It's good to let readers know from the start where you stand on an issue, if a stand is what you mean to take.

The lead Regina Brett used in her 2006 Cleveland Plain Dealer column, "45 Life Lessons and 5 to Grow On," merely prepares the reader for a list. She writes: "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update."

The list follows, beginning with: "1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good. 2. When in doubt, just take the next small step. 3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. 4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does. 5. Pay off your credit cards every month."

Pithy start. Pithy body. The end is pithy, too, Brett's 45th lesson: "Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Yes, life is, and so is Deadline Artists. Treat yourself to a copy. You'll enjoy and you'll learn, from the leads right through to the finishes.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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The Fog Index

Posted on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Assessing the readability of a Time.com excerpt.

This month, we calculate the Fog Index of a Time.com excerpt (adapted from a Harvard Business Review article). Here's the sample:

"Happy, engaged employees are good for an organization. Research shows they are more creative, produce better results, and are willing to go the extra mile. What's more, happiness is contagious; it creates a virtuous cycle that leads to further engagement. To bring more of that into your team, focus on what psychologists have identified as the three pathways to happiness: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Consider whether you are actively encouraging these things in your people. Do they enjoy their relationships and their environment at work? Do they laugh? Do they fill roles that fit their skill sets and offer appropriate challenges? Do they feel they're a part of something that matters? If the answer is no to any of these questions, brainstorm how you can adjust the team environment to bring more happiness in."

--Word count: 134 words
--Average sentence length: 13 words (8, 17, 15, 24, 11, 10, 3, 13, 10, 23)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 14 percent (19/134 words)
--Fog Index: (13+14)*.4 = 10 (no rounding)

This excerpt weighs in with an ideal Fog score of 10. The average sentence length is quite low at 13 words, thanks in large part to the string of questions near the end. Also low is the number of words with more than three syllables (per the Fog-Gunning guidelines).

Is there anything we can do to improve this sample? Let's take a look:

"Happy, engaged employees are good for a company. Research shows they are more creative, produce better results, and are willing to go the extra mile. What's more, happiness is contagious. It leads people to engage more. To bring more of that to your team, focus on what psychologists have dubbed the three pathways to happiness: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Consider whether you are actively promoting these things in your workers. Do they enjoy their relationships and their work environment? Do they laugh? Do their roles fit their skill sets and offer appropriate challenges? Do they feel they're a part of something that matters? If the answer to any of these questions is no, brainstorm what you can change to make people happy."

--Word count: 122 words
--Average sentence length: 11 words (8, 17, 5, 6, 23, 11, 9, 3, 11, 10, 19)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 11 percent (13/122 words)
--Fog Index: (11+11)*.4 = 8 (no rounding)

Most of our changes are pretty minor. There were a few places where we might have used the thesaurus to find a shorter version of a longer word, but the word in place simply worked better (e.g., "contagious" versus "catching"). We trimmed ten words and split one sentence in two, which helped bring down our average sentence length to 11. We eliminated 6 longer words to bring the percentage down from 13 to 11. These changes improved the Fog index by two points.

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Multiple Magazine Covers

Posted on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 2:33 PM

In the news: Some magazines are releasing multiple versions of issues with different cover images.

Magazine editors continue to experiment with different content delivery strategies to lure more readers and attract more advertisers. One trend on the rise is multiple magazine covers -- i.e., single issues that are released to newsstands and app stores with different cover variations.

This is no fledgling trend; most of the major magazine publishers, including Condé Nast and Hearst, are putting out magazines with multiple cover versions. This allows magazine designers to flex more creative muscle and editors to create different impressions using different cover copy on each version. Already, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, Food Network Magazine, and Time, among many others, have experimented with multiple cover versions. A recent NYTimes.com piece boldly states, "How many front covers does a magazine have? The logical answer -- one -- is outdated." Read more here.

Also Notable

Digital Magazines: More Local and Global?

A recent PBS.org piece suggests in its title that "Digital Mags Can Be More Local, More Global, Than in Print World." The article discusses how, thanks to digital publishing, magazines have become increasingly available internationally and have found ways to tailor content based on readers' geographic locations. The piece discusses iPad app Foli, which allows businesses to create digital magazine racks for their visitors. These virtual magazine racks could eventually replace tabletop magazine stacks in lobbies and waiting rooms. Read more here.

Tablet Magazine Statistics

Tablet sales may top 190 million this year, according to International Data Corp. projections. However, readers in both the 30-49 and 50-64 demographics spent just 6 percent of their tablet time reading magazines. (Readers in the former demographic tended to read more e-books, while readers in the latter read more digital newspaper content.) Read more here.

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