Gateway to ideas; 13; The Changing Roles of Magazines
Gateway to ideas. And. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program the changing role of magazines is moderated by Leonard Robinson a lecturer at Columbia University with much experience in magazine editing and publishing. Days guest list GERALDINE RHODES And Mr. Ralph Backlund. Miss Rhode held high editorial posts at several women's magazines before her person assignment as executive editor of McCall's magazine. Mr. Backlund is managing editor of Horizon magazine. The subject under discussion today is the changing role of
magazines in today's world. I think most of us would agree that the magazine the modern magazine popular magazine is changing. Oh you know agreement about that. Well Mr. Robinson I do think that magazines are changing in public tastes are changing but I don't quite understand the subject. I don't understand why you say that the role is changing. Do you think that somebody else has usurped the role for example. Well Mr. Rose Don't you think that first place what was the role of magazines in the first 30 years of the century. Well I think that that the magazine typically was published to entertain guide and instruct readers and it did this in various combinations of course some magazines being more entertaining than others. Well I think some magazines still hope to do well certainly the kind of magazine I want honor and yours but there's no doubt the magazine itself is changing not only in
physical appearance. And I think the reason is that it's no longer able to quite fit the old formula and I think it's because many of the functions of the men of the family magazine the slick magazine of the first part of the century have been taken over by other media by television. It seems to me that that while television is covering a great many things that magazines traditionally covered particularly along the lines of news and entertainment that it has not nonetheless taken over some of the roles of guiding and instructing and also that people like to read about something on which they already know something. Well Lazarus feld for example in some of his studies of people's interest in various communications found that people were interested in all or nothing that is to say you read a great deal you read magazines and newspapers and books and looked at TV and listened to radio. You tended to do a great many things. The ball game
which interests you most in the newspaper is the one you've seen even though you may of course pick up the newspaper to read about the football game just just simply to see who won but the but but the it's the review of the play you've seen that fascinates you particularly when I think the television has stimulated a lot haven't a clue what they're like but what I mean is that television has taken over a large part of the old function. Your magazine your Christmas issue calls how many stories we have for a short story or would you would have had 25 years ago you would have had five six I'm right would you not. Thirty or forty years ago he would certainly have had that many. Which means that your role has changed somehow you no longer see yourself as a player going attainment to the degree that you McCall's once did. I don't agree with that Mr. Backlund. Not only I feel has television and other movements in modern life affected the fiction as such in magazines. The amount of fiction but it's changed the kind of fiction that magazines
today and I think increasingly in the future will be looking for magazines up in from say roughly 900 up to the present. Up till fairly recently the last 10 years 10 years ago concern themselves with the daydream. So to speak of the slick story which we all are familiar with which is a kind of daydream story. It also to some extent try to educate the rising middle class in America. But. Now we find in the slick magazines which went in for this kind of slick story in which it took its name and now doing qualities quality so-called quality stories the kind that we normally only saw in Harper's the Atlantic. And so forth so I do think that you're quite right Mr. Backlund in saying that TV is not because you think TV has taken over the jungle. Or yes I put it precisely it has taken a science literally
causing other hand you could say I will defend TV partly to that simply by exposing people to more things that maybe taste more sophisticated too and the old kind of story the delight of the readers of The Post as we please anybody anymore. It seems to me functional software change this world. Well it does seem to me that we do not necessarily want to go back to all of the fiction that has been published in the past because certainly some of it was very bad indeed although some of it was going to have to make important books and to develop important fiction writers in part of this century. I do want to tell you that that the president of the local corporation who has made a great name for himself as an editor Mr. Herbert Mays said in a recent speech that he thought that much as a short fiction being published in magazines today was written for mush heads. We are by no means satisfied with the kind of fiction that is running in magazines particularly short fiction. We are not receiving anything like the number of manuscripts that we received some years ago. We do not receive as many short stories
from our writers as was the case 10 years ago or 20 years well. Will not be due to the fact that magazines have changed and the freelance writer who formerly made a living from the old sayings magazines up to the person you know just not making a living from fiction anymore the magazines have changed us to some extent the cycle has been established there is no market but I think also that that the decline of the short story has gone along to some extent with some decline in. I think of novel length but here we are again back to my original point was world which is that the function of fiction a certain level fiction with the kind we just told you a story entertainment the narrative has been taken over by television before that by radio and between the two let's say by the movies. People who simply want to be entertained by a story find it easier to watch it or listen to it and
read it and that that's not necessarily kind of reader you hope to please but there are a lot of them around. They're not being entertained by somebody else. This has to be true or why or why do all for inspection. Disappearing from all magazines. It is disappearing partly because this does not seem to be a literary period you know I mean these things are really shows being written. If they really want answered I want one of the reasons why fiction disappearing or disappeared rather abruptly from the magazines it disappeared rather abruptly during the war. For two reasons. First of all a paper shortage tended to cut the size of magazines and production costs have cut the size of magazines and take quite a lot of space to run a good fiction story. Another reason why fiction disappeared rather abruptly from the magazines during the war was the fact of the war itself the fact that the events taking place in the war were so shattering so much more exciting than any fiction that they tended to dominate the scene. Also many other writers went to war we were left at one time with a
certain number of writers who the ladies who were who were at home and and there was if there was a very sharp change in the needs and in the kinds of manuscripts coming in during the war. I think much of this material that we've been discussing here one will find in several interesting books among the history of American magazines by Frank Omar. Magazines in the United States by James Plaisted would. And going back into the so-called quality magazines of the early part of this century the old Century Magazine story of it and some of its works between the lines. I just wanted to interject that I think these books were all written Mr. Robinson because the people the authors recognize of the story in the magazine United States was an interesting one and
something that developed here which was important. And one of people 30 years from now I'll be of course it will be will be reading the same kind of book about the rise of television. Yes. Now there's just one thing Mr. Backlund that I wanted to say in relationship to what Mr. Rhodes was saying in my experience with magazines during the war. I I saw no fall in the amount of fiction that was published in say the New York or the Saturday Evening Post and causes. Until television started to make its real big bid from one thousand forty eight on my I don't think the amount of fiction fell appreciably. In fact I was a managing editor of Esquire as late as 1954 and we were publishing as much fiction then as we had then. It was during my incumbency that the
full impact finally started to take effect and the amount of fiction that we were putting in Esquire started to fall. Just then it's late and that was already on the wall or I don't feel it was and I've always felt I agree with you as to back when that it was television taking over the appalling role of the disseminating of slick fiction that killed fiction for the magazines people saw it on TV and that was enough which in a way Mr. Robinson was it was a great opportunity for the magazines which the most successful ones have seen. It's one reason I relish change because I realize you don't have to perform that terrible role anymore because there's a donation point that's a nice point. What do you Mr. Backlund. If that would show just that you don't want to say that Rose is saying is not true. No but if that was so what do you visualize to be the role of magazines. Well I think more and more purveyor of information of course has a bigger appetite for information this country
than there was before as a result of education and better communications people want more news they want one from ation they want more nonfiction books I suspect which is a pity in a way but I think that the magazines and we agree that the road is changing I think Miss Rose does not. What they're changing into is a more specialized kind of organ. Reaching an audience was more special interest. The women's magazines are simply more specialized than they were before and you still want women but after all when the other day that one magazine in its ads addressed to the advertising business and to advertisers not to the public said we don't want anybody over 30 for that red book that's Red Bull. Our audience is aging very very for it which means you're really putting limits on it now because a part of this is done really I'm sure is the musing kind of a gimmick but it doesn't mean in order to sell advertising up so you can reach this audience this market and this is true of any magazine in a sense the technical magazine the same way they are
reaching a certain group of readers who have a community of interest. This road have you found any areas in which your magazine has changed in the past several years aside from visibility we all know they've changed not only your magazine got changed visually and certainly my great great about having good magazine graphics. Well I would like to stick very briefly with one point that that we've been discussing before just for a minute and that is that I do not think that magazines have yielded to television the role of being entertainers. I think that all three of us here surely grew up with the idea that it was fun to read and it still must be fun to read and we still must provide reading in magazines that make them fun. In addition to having pictures that make them beautiful and in that sense fun we are continuing to publish fiction when we can get it and think it is fun and enough to publish. We are so far as my cause is concerned it
is joining with G.P. Putnam's a book publisher and first world library another company interested in the book business and a movie company to offer a big award for a novel in this year. We are also I think increasingly developing things that are funded read in the way of biography and autobiography humor and other kinds of things Bill lectures. We do a great deal of this. I think we draw from all sources for it. This last year McCall's for example used over 50 excerpts from 25 books. They all might end up doing that all magazines are doing that but we are and we are looking for material that is fun to read and I would just hate for us to to laugh. Leave the sense of the meeting that we feel that this pops into television dramas rose out of the sense a lot of No no it isn't I don't know I mean it was there taking over a certain kind of entertainment magazines of that sort changing role is to provide some other entertainment to replace it which you
do visually and with a much better quality writing and general magazines used to have. Yes but I agree I think that the very fact that magazines are publishing sections of books is also it that you've just mentioned is an indication of the change in sections of rather first rate books which I think ought to please you know I realize the publishers not the money or not really. But for instance. Three magazines my own magazine holiday in vogue each published a chapter from a recent book but on a Tracey called Spanish leaves and you want to read any one of those doesn't matter even if we do all three would I'm sure want to read the book simply because they gave you a taste of something very good and I had that experience I read one and I was unsure that I haven't yet got the book but I'm going to I'm going to be OK with my accepting one of the others but I think this happens the case of many books or magazines and it's a stamp you want to extend the can before are sort of projecting.
When a book is all about and in the end this makes readers of people to think. Excuse me I just wanted to say that on this business of the all time fiction and magazines there's an excellent book by Quentin Reynolds called fiction factory which concerns that that great the heyday of slick fiction that's a point Mr. Robinson I love that fiction is turned out of the factory and other factors are feeding televisions through the mike that's exactly the point that was a book about Street and Smith. Yeah specifically one of the things of course when I talk about books about the magazine business one of the things that that makes the magazine business unique I think is that there first must be a publishing idea but then a magazine generally becomes the product of a man the editor saw that. There have been many enormously entertaining and they're revealing books written about the magazine industry in terms of the of the life of one man there was the marvelous book about Harold Ross called my years with Ross By
James Thurber Yes and add and then there was a splendid book by John Tebbel on George Horace Lorimer in the Saturday Evening Post and the Swanson biography of Hearst and the world of the world of comedy. That's right. Yes you have to have the numbers of books about that touch on the fashion business including some fiction books I guess involve the world and that's right which is an anthology. Yes. Well many of us have have cross-head and zoology but I well I think it's true the magazine of what I hope is going to continue to be true at the end himself reviews will make the moment has an enormous effect I mean after all the post we really think of in terms of its two great elders Larmer. It's part of something I agree. Mr. Backlund But why. Why is a magazine editor great. Isn't it because he is able to to identify he has he is able to identify with the times. And if the Times is a changing times together it's in the spirit it's Zeit Geist and somehow projected
into the pages of a magazine. Certainly Ross and The New Yorker was able to do that just at the juncture when this kind of magazine was just right. On another level entirely due it was the die just moved into an area which hadn't been explored or exploited by any great editor. And the same the same way I think I think the same very same thing has happened with McCalls. I think the reason your editors are graded too is because he could change with the times. You know why why why are many magazines dad. Simply because they're already to the group. In other words the Times is changing or are changing and and the grayness I mean. It's well you know fortunately however as times have changed more people are educated and they have more leisure and the population is larger so that we have about a thousand more magazines now than we had at the beginning of the century
and our circulations have more than outrun the population growth which I think is true a lot of the very large ones there are somewhat fewer don't you think there are fewer big women's magazines and there were 30 years ago. Well you know yeah except there were six but there are three just two stories one to two magazines with special distribution like family circle and Women's Day which are which is to do one function of a gentleman. Well they don't they happen to carry no you know fiction. One of them and one of our own carries no articles either. But they exist and they're there. Redbook magazine has has grown into a magazine with more home interests than it had been 20 years ago. So that down I don't think there has been that much of a decline I mean if you come down from six to five sets that's not the greatest change in the WHERE I know of course some of the specialized magazines or I want what I mean is that
when magazines are as most of them are dependent on advertising a mass circulation magazine which provides a mass medium rolled into competition like television it's bound has some effect. Maybe it means burning out three big magazines and six are not doing quite so well because they'll be able to use you know the pressures you're all grown try to be a little better. Well we have a we have a function beyond that of television in some areas. Someone in our office was saying the other day that if you look at television all during the month of December and you see very little in the way of preparation for Christmas for example you have to wait till Christmas week itself for the reading of A Christmas Carol and and the performance of a malum the Night Visitors and so on. Whereas we come out ahead of time and in magazine after magazine after magazine you you see all kinds of things relating to the Christmas spirit and its celebration and the
decoration of the House and the amusement of the guests and so forth because that's the reason magazines exist because they supply something about the books and anything else can do. You know the magazine I think has never been a real threat to the book you know and I don't think so and I think as matter of fact we attempt to to promote an interest in books we do so in I mean our longer range where we know you know we rely on and also as I say we used 25 books last year with our purpose and the purpose of a magazine in part is to stimulate public interest in other things including books. And we ran for example as Elizabeth-Jane Waze novel accident we ran a half dozen chapters from Barber Lang's book on boys and other beasts which was an amusing thing for teenagers but didn't really do to promote a book you know because because it was good stuff and yes but we like to give readers a foretaste of other good thoughts too. We feel that's part of our function. Do you feel that the book reading public is the same as the magazine reading.
Well I've always thought that they were quite separate. I think they're different but I think they're closer together than they used to be partly because of the distribution of paperback books through the same retail outlets as magazines nothing else. I think they are. Major closing closing. Yeah I've always thought it was drama simply the book reading public was just part of a larger magazine making public. You why do you think they're separate. Well I just have that feeling subjectively for the most part but also once again they were talking about general books biographies in fiction rather than yes scholarly work which. Yes no yes we're speaking of popular books in a large sense of the word but I just I think I've never seen any real proof that a book a popular book is popular with magazine readers. For example when I worked in book publishing the fact that the book was bought by a magazine or even
liked by magazines had it was no reflection of its sale in bookstores later if it was taken by serial resting mentally popular one like drinkers Please don't eat the dates you don't just pull that little by what by the same people who also read what a magnet was journalism. Well tonight thank you. It could have hurt the cardinal for example which was a runaway best seller in books was published in Cosmopolitan and that issue of those issues of God apart and fell flat on their face at the time. So you know there is there are examples and examples I think there are examples that bridge both worlds or magazine or you know in the I think your point is true of fiction I mean of the novel and there's a short appraising collected things. I mean yes I would think that well if you read the cardinal even in Cosmopolitan why would you go out and buy the book if you read it one of the shorter pieces and liked them. It's the kind of thing you know we get anyway. But of course also there's the problem sometimes you have an excellent book that you must relinquish as
a possibility for the magazine because you would write in the book in any effort to excerpt are I want to read with the lights out there so you have a very good books that that never shopping. I know what I'll do so that if any magazine can ever take any real book extracted there was something wrong with the book she's written about like. Well occasionally we find that to be true there is a manuscript comes to it which is not a good book but which lent itself in a very good excerpt. Well the point is that we are really I'm a slow road that we're going to have more leisure. Who were involved in making the hope that means that some of the time will be spent on reading magazines. But I think the proof and then you know others are. Weather seems to be in terms of the proliferation of magazines and their circulation. But what about as I was thinking that would be the final of many rise up to replace the ones that have fallen and yes we can expect to continue and I think there will be many new kinds of magazines I think will be many more magazines like Horizon West's
and hard covers and with an emphasis on the arts but here now that we have developed greater graphics and greater production facilities and magazines and I think all the people who are more read magazines for new audiences certainly for some of the older people in the country and and it would seem that the growth of the young population would suggest some more attention to to their interests in magazine traditionally the whole flavor you're going to throw the whole flavor and taste texture where we want to see American society has changed the whole quality in the last 50 years which means that the magazines you have to change it only won't be read. I mean we live in a totally different society in every way from 30 years ago. Oh yes they they changed monthly they change yearly. Yes. In a tone at last I mean I really think the best magazines Larry fucking Let's change what do you think the change is. Oh well if it doesn't that's quite another program but certainly the obvious things are the results of communications
the fact that you can go anywhere now easily you can touch the entire world. There's far less of the kind of isolation that I remember from as a child living in a small town in the Midwest where what came into the home and the body in the outside world a newspaper in the magazine every week the poster of the colliers or the one that came every month. The radio when you could hear between starting or later on of course as these things changed why. Life opened up and I think this and we reflect on the kind of things we read. You think it will be it will mean a greater intellectual content in the magazine of tomorrow there will be more magazines of higher intellectual content I would say. I suppose so you obviously are going to help satisfy every level of taste. This is why why so do I think the magazines themselves are all going to specialize someone reaching for their own section of the audience. Well thank you very much for this discussion. I guess have been GERALDINE
RHODES executive editor of McCall's and Ralph Backlund managing editor of Horizon magazine. You've been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program the changing role of magazines as presented. RATH Backlund managing editor of Horizon magazine and GERALDINE RHODES executive editor of McCall's magazine. The moderator was Leonard Robinson a lecturer at Columbia University. Mr. Robinson has had much experience with magazines both in top editorial post and as an author of many published stories and articles to extend the dimensions of today's program for you a list of the books mentioned in the discussion as well as others relevant to the subject has been prepared. You can obtain a copy from your local library all by writing to gateway to ideas post office box 6 for 1 Time Square
Station New York and peace enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. Write a box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York. Gateway to ideas is produced for national educational radio from the National Home Library Foundation. The programs are prepared by the National Book Committee and the American Library Association with The National Association of educational technical production in New York City.
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