Print magazines were the original niche medium, creating communities long before the internet allowed audiences to find specialized content and interact with like-minded readers. Consumer magazines provided information, inspiration, empathy and advocacy for readers with specific goals and concerns. The targeted advertising business model of magazines was an early precursor of contemporary algorithms and metrics behind social media marketing.The cultural niches 20th century consumer magazines created and covered were powerful social influences on a wide variety of readers, from farmers to feminists, and covered everything from big ideas to political ideologies. With missions to serve specific readers and editors who were champions of their interests, even the most practical magazines were cultural influences well beyond their pages.
This book is a curated collection of case studies that collectively shed light on the cultural niches that American consumer magazines of the 20th century covered and created. The chapters examine how cultural niches were cultivated, how they changed over time, and how they influenced broader cultural conversations. This sweeping view of 20th-century American magazines illuminates how this particular media form created, cultivated, and served specific communities, laying the groundwork for contemporary media forms to continue that role today.
Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin is associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago, where she is coordinator of the program’s magazine concentration. She is the former head of the Magazine Media Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Bloyd-Peshkin spent 13 years as a consumer magazine editor, including as senior editor of Vegetarian Times magazine and editor of Chicago Parent magazine.
Charles Whitaker is dean and professor at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. He previously served as the Helen Gurley Brown Professor and associate dean of journalism for the school. He currently serves on the board of directors for both the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Center for Public Integrity.
Section 1: Ideas and Ideologies
Chapter 1. Ideas in America and Ideas of America: Thought Leader Magazines and the Life of the Mind in the 20th Century
by Kevin M. Lerner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication/Journalism, Marist College, and editor of the Journal of Magazine Media
Chapter 2. Speaking Out: Leftist Magazines and Political Advocacy
by Erika J. Pribanic-Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Texas, Arlington
Chapter 3. “Things You Want to Keep”: McSweeney’s and the Periodical as a Perennial Object
By Pablo Calvi, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Multimedia Journalism and Associate Director for Latin America for the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, SUNY Stonybrook
Chapter 4. 1960s American Folk Music Magazines: Counter-hegemonic Voices of Social Transformation
By Krystyna Henke, MA, journalist and author of audio CD “Nobel Voices for Disarmament, 1901-2000” (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)
Section 2: The Practical and the Personal
Chapter 5. Reaffirming the Pastoral Life: Reiman Publications 1970-2007
By Sheila Webb, Ph.D., Professor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Western Washington University
Chapter 6. Tilling Fertile Ground: The Trailblazing Role of Farming Magazines
By Catherine M. Staub, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Journalism, Drake University, and Chair of Magazine Journalism
Chapter 7. Magazine as Gay Lifeline: AIDS and the Emergence of POZ
Gary R. Hicks, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mass Communications, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Chapter 8. From Marginal to Mainstream: Vegetarian Magazines vs. the Standard American Diet
By Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, MA, Associate Professor of Journalism, Columbia College Chicago
Chapter 9. Read Them for the Articles: Masculinity, U.S. Men’s Magazines and the Tension Between Niche and Mainstream Audiences
By Kevin M. Lerner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication/Journalism, Marist College, and editor of the Journal of Magazine Media
Section 3: The Familiar and the Future
Chapter 10. Getting the Last Laugh: Domestic Chaos Writers Outlasted Their Critics
By Betsy Edgerton, MA, Associate Professor of Journalism, Columbia College Chicago
Chapter 11. Craving to Connect: Zines and the Celebration of Creativity and Control
By Peggy Dillon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Media and Communication and Salem State University
Chapter 12. Branding the Local Lifestyle: City, State and Regional Magazines
By Norma Green, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Columbia College Chicago; and Charles Whitaker, MA, dean and professor at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.
Chapter 13. A Style Guide for the Digital World
By Aileen Gallagher, Associate Professor of Magazine, News & Digital Journalism, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
Curating Culture tells the story of how American print magazines created communities and brought together diverse groups of people who shared common interests and passions. It explains how some of the nation’s best-known magazines influenced and interacted with American culture in the 20th century. Before the internet, print magazines played a singular role in creating relationships among readers who shared diverse interests. In this book, leading magazine scholars and historians have contributed chapters about magazines that focused on such topics as folk music, regional lifestyles, politics and current events, farming and rural life, homemaking, gay rights, vegetarianism, and men’s and women’s issues. These essays created the enduring legacy of 20th century print magazines as places where people found community.
The core -- and thoroughly convincing -- tenet of this scholarly anthology can be simply stated: that rumors of the demise of the American magazine industry in the 21th century are greatly exaggerated. Calling on the best contemporary magazine researchers, Bloyd-Peshkin and Whitaker have assembled a wealth of insightful case studies that document not only the role of magazines in our nation's cultural past, but also suggest a likely path forward for the medium in the future.