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Module 12: Magazine Journalism

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Magazines and Control of Information

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Magazine Journalism

Magazines and Control of Information

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Magazines and Control of Information

Access to Information

Magazines control the public’s access to information in a variety of ways. Like the newspaper industry, the magazine industry dictates not only which stories get told but also how those stories are
presented.

Although significant similarities between the newspaper and magazine industries’ control over information exist, some notable differences within the industries themselves deserve exploration.

Format

Format

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Format

In general, the format of most magazines allows for a more in-depth discussion of a topic than is possible in the relatively constrained space available in newspapers. Most large newspapers, such as The Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times, generally cap even their longest articles at 1,000 words.

Magazines, however, frequently allow for double that word count when publishing articles of great interest. Length, however, varies from magazine to magazine and story to story. Although these differences might not appear that great, the results reflect editorial choice and, therefore, the power the magazine industry has over information control.

Perspective

Perspective

Perspective

Choice to Publish

Just as newspapers do, magazines control which stories reach the public by deciding which articles to include in their publications.

As might be expected, the choice of stories depends on the political climate and on global events.

Magazines and Control of Information

Each magazine has its own editorial slant, which helps determine which stories get published and how those stories are presented to the reading public.

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Editorial Perspective

Between the 1970s and 1990s, Times and Newsweek both greatly increased science articles, entertainment articles, and stories on personal health. Interestingly,despite both publications’ stated commitment to news, a dramatic decrease took place in articles on domestic and foreign government affairs.

Whether these changes reflected a change in reader interest or an alteration in the editors’ perspectives remains unclear; however, these shifts demonstrate that what is published is entirely up to the magazine and its editorial staff, as they are the ones who have the final word.

Magazines shy away from controversial content that can turn off advertisers.

Advertisers Influence

Magazines derive approximately half of their income from advertisers. With such a large stake in the magazine industry, advertisers can play a major role in deciding which stories are printed.

Because magazines are so dependent on advertisers for their revenue, they are cautious about the content they place in their pages.

Avoiding Stories

Avoiding Stories

Magazines and Control of Information

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Avoiding Stories

Recently, a large American auto manufacturer sent a memo to about 50 magazines asking that their ad agency be notified if future issues of the magazine contained articles that addressed political, sexual, or social issues that might be seen as provocative, controversial, or offensive.

The balance that magazines must maintain to keep advertisers happy is a delicate one. With ad prices driving the magazine industry, many publications are forced to satisfy advertisers by avoiding potentially controversial stories.


Advertisers Influence

it may seem easy to paint the advertising industry as an evil, controlling entity
that seeks to keep stories from the public. While advertisers may exhibit some control over stories, they
also have a lot at stake.

As online media grows, today many advertisers are pulling their expensive print ads in favor of cheaper, web-based advertisements. Advertising revenue has decreased steadily since the 1990s, mirroring the rise in online use.


Influence

Influence

Magazines and Control of Information

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Influence

This drop in advertising may, in fact, force magazines to give advertisers more
control over their content to avoid losing further funding. While it may be difficult to precisely pin down the level of influence advertisers exert over magazine content, evidence suggests they do exert some control.

For example, an even more blatant attempt to influence magazine content, another large corporation informed a number of magazine publishers that the content of their magazines would be carefully monitored for several months and that a large advertising contract would be awarded to the publication that portrayed their industry in the most favorable light.

Editorial Leanings

A 2003 study examining leading newsmagazines Time, Newsweek, and US
News & World Report, demonstrated variations in how the publications presented their articles to the reading public.

These distinctions among the three publications have an effect on the information contained between their covers.

Editorial leanings do not make one magazine more prestigious or valid than the others; US News & World Report may offer facts and figures, while Newsweek may provide the human side of the story.

Variations

Variations

Magazines and Control of Information

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Variations

US News & World Report, are the most information-laden, the most likely to publish highly traditional hard news topics, and the most likely to report in a neutral manner, a more straightforward accounting of the facts of events with less of a writer’s take or opinion on what those events mean.

Newsweek is lighter, more oriented toward lifestyle and celebrity coverage, and more likely to publish stories that contain an emotional component.

Time magazine is something of a hybrid between the two. Its content is more like US News, neutral and information driven. Its covers, on the other hand, look a good deal more like Newsweek’s, highlighting lifestyle and entertainment.

Hybrid Content

Hybrid Content

Hybrid Content

Magazine-Like Websites

In recent years, websites that function much as magazines once did without officially being publications themselves have become an increasingly popular online model.

For example, Pitchfork Media is an
Internet publication on the music industry.

Magazines and Control of Information

Established in 1995, the site offers readers criticism and commentary on contemporary music and has many of the same features as a traditional music magazine: reviews, news, articles, and interviews.

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Hybrid Content

Whether the pitchfork media website is capitalizing on the success of print magazines by following their format or if it is simply responding to its readers by providing them with an accessible online experience is a debatable point.

Of course, the website also has many features that would not be available in print, such as a streaming playlists of music and music videos. This hybrid of magazine-like content with new-media content offers a possible vision of the digital future of print publications.

Online News Sources

Factors

Factors

The Internet has significantly changed the way that the public receives information. The advent of online news sources has somewhat lessened the control that magazines have over information.

Today, online-only magazines provide, for little to no cost, news and coverage that would have previously been available only through print publications.

Magazines and Control of Information

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Factors

Online-only magazines include, Slate, which offers a daily digest of information from newspapers around the globe, and Salon, which provides readers many stories for free and more in-depth coverage for a subscription cost.

Like their print counterparts, online magazines rely on revenue from advertisers, but because that advertising is less costly, advertisers may have less of a stake in online content.

These factors contribute to changing perspectives on the way that information is being controlled in the journalism industry.

Back Issues

Back Issues

Back Issues

Print Magazines with Online Presences

Most magazine websites also include online-only content such as blogs, podcasts, and daily news updates that, naturally, are not available in print form. The additional features on magazines’ websites likely stem from a need to attract audiences with shorter attention spans and less time to devote to reading articles.

Most print magazines have created websites. Nearly every major print publication has a site available either for free or through subscription.

Yet there are intrinsic differences between the print and online media.

Magazines and Control of Information

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Back Issues

Another way that magazines court online readers is by offering back-issue content. Readers can browse old articles without having to remember in which issue the content first appeared. The cost for this varies from publication to publication.

For example, CooksIllustrated.com reprints recipes from previous issues
as part of a paid online membership service, while CookingLight.com offers back issues for free.

Some magazines have online archive collections, though those collections generally do not print entire articles or complete issues.

Print is Dead?

Print is Dead?

Print is Dead?

Print Magazines with Online Presences

David Carr articulates the shift in readership from print to web, saying, “The paradox is that newspapers and magazines do not have an audience problem—newspaper
websites are a vital source of news, but they do have a consumer problem.”

With a majority of magazines and newspapers now available for free online, one has to wonder how the industry will stay afloat.

The debate over whether print is still viable is a heated one that is infiltrating the magazine industry.

Magazines and Control of Information

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Print is Dead?

Regardless of your position, the fact that the print industry is facing hardships is unquestionable. Magazines are rethinking their marketing strategies to remain viable in an increasingly online world.

But many are hopeful that journals will find a way to publish both in print and on the Internet. In a 2005 published debate on the topic, former print editor-turned-blogger Jeff Jarvis squared off against John Griffin, president of the National Geographic Society’s magazine group.

Jarvis claimed, “Print is not dead. Print is where words go to die.” But Griffin countered, “Actually print is where words go to live—we’re still reading the ancient Greeks.”

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