For me, magazines are like comfort food. Not necessarily good for me, but all I want to read when I’m sick or feeling low.
How much does it cost?
I only have a nickel
I remember chanting this as a child when Life Magazine was read by most households in America. Known for its magnificent photography, it showcased artistic photos and beautiful illustrations, featured several series on science, and covered major news stories. While my father favored Time, the rest of us fought over who would read the latest edition of Life.
By 1960, with television’s popularity ascending and interest in getting news from magazines waning, it actually did drop its price to twenty cents and started featuring celebrities and prominent politicians. I remember huge photo spreads of President Kennedy and his family, stories about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and ultimately articles with honest and gruesome pictures of the war in Vietnam. But even with the wonderful photos of Gordon Parks featured, coverage of the growing counter-culture in America, and an issue dedicated to our astronauts’ trip to the moon, Life circulation numbers kept falling.
By the time I was married and we were subscribing to magazines, Life was in free fall and stopped publishing its weekly magazine in December of 1972. I still loved reading weekly magazines, although I did consume my daily news via Walter Cronkite. Newsweek was our favorite. There was something very satisfying about reading it from cover to cover each week. My husband enjoyed Sports Illustrated as well.
Cable news landed the final blow to weekly magazines. With 24/7 coverage of everything (and nothing) and the ability to choose newscasts that played to our politics and biases, we were no longer consuming news from a common source of information. Many Americans were no longer interested in reading magazines, or anything else for that matter.
While there were some trashy magazines I read as a teen (Photoplay, Teen, Tiger Beat, and Seventeen for a bit of class) and my brothers’ beloved Mad, my parents only read Life and Time, so I did as well. As news in written form continued to decline, I developed a secret guilty pleasure: People Magazine. It started appearing in doctors’ office and beauty salons in the mid-seventies. At some point, my doctor husband started receiving free copies for his office waiting room. He brought the old issues home and I must confess I became addicted.
As the years went on, however, my interest in People began to wane. Who were these people and why should I care about them? The latest edition, which I flipped through in five minutes this week, featured pictures of Orlando Bloom and Cardi B in swim suits, Ludicris and Ciara with their “famous families,” and the demise of the relationship between Cassie Randolph and Colton Underwood from The Bachelor. I think People needs to publish an issue for seniors and start extending its “Beautiful at Any Age” feature to women in their seventies (besides Jane Fonda, because, well that’s just unfair).
For me, magazines are like comfort food. Not necessarily good for me, but all I want to read when I’m sick or feeling low. Perhaps they will make a comeback in this era of coronavirus, social distancing, and anxiety. Meanwhile, I may just have to read the stories in this week’s People about HGTV star Eric Eremita’s battle with Covid-19 or Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s secret daughter. As the pandemic continues to dominate my life, I long for Life, a magazine I could savor over the course of another endless week.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.