Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

What We Lost When We Lost Magazines

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Yeah, I know: we still have magazines. Just look at any magazine rack in any supermarket. But they’re not like magazines used to be. Most focus on some narrow topic — quilting or tech or whatever lights your candle. Few are general-interest or news magazines. The few that remain of those are mostly fluff, froth, and advertising — their editorial wells are, shall we say, exceptionally shallow. Magazines went out, along with newspapers, when the Internet came in. They were already struggling with the costs of printing and fulfillment and with the distraction of television. But they drowned in the tsunami that is the Web. And when we lost magazines, we lost a lot more than pictures and light content: we lost an informed public.

What, you ask, brings us this rumination?

Friend of mine, a bright and reasonably educated woman with much experience of the world, wondered aloud on Facebook why some people are so vociferously opposed to a national ID card. I remarked that no doubt the idea brings to mind Nazi “papers.” She responded with “I don’t understand.” Two of her followers — moi included — leapt to inform her that the Nazis used a national ID card to track and help trap members of the various groups they wished to extinguish.

I thought how odd that people wouldn’t know that!

But then realized it’s not odd at all. If I learned that in school, I don’t recall learning it there. I learned it from magazines like Life and Saturday Evening Post.

Back in the Dark Ages, magazines published actual content, not just fluff and advertising. Among the things they published were history stories. I remember, for example, learning about the Hindenberg disaster from a terrifying photo spread in the Saturday Evening Post. We learned about Nazi extermination programs from Life, the Post, Time, and even Newsweek, complete with graphic photos of concentration camps. And we learned about how the Nazis operated and what they intended to do once they took over Europe and waypoints. We also learned about Japanese imperialism and what they were up to in their Pacific venues.

Sure, they also published plenty of froth about movie stars and pop singers. But major national and international periodicals did not fail to include solid content presented in an interesting, easy-to-understand, memorable way. Even women’s magazines published real content. Have you picked up a Lady’s Home Journal lately? A given issue contains nothing but advertorial (much of it unmarked) and advertising. It was not always so: Lady’s Home Journal, McCall’s, and their sister publications used to carry real articles about real subject matter.

You didn’t learn the facts behind life in your present society from television. Few documentaries appeared on the boob tube — which was why Newton Minow called it “a vast wasteland.” What we live in now is exactly that — multiplied by some astronomical factor on the Internet. Only in the absence of magazine journalism, we have nothing to take up the slack.

That is why we have voters who do not understand what is wrong with what people like Trump and Pence proclaim. What we lost was an educated public of adults with common sense and the ability to set current events in their historic context. If things continue as they are going along this shameful trail of ignorance, we soon will lose the Republic itself.

And that, folks, is a big loss.

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Author: funny

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6 Comments

  1. You could really say the same thing about newspapers. I remember when you could get the Sunday paper and make an entire morning of reading it. Now, you can read anything of interest in less than 20 minutes. No wonder nobody subscribes anymore.

    • LOL! You know you’re gettin’ old when you can remember the day when newspapers had content and comic strips were large enough to see without a microscope. 😀

  2. I really miss magazines with content, too. Also, many women’s magazines used to have good short stories by upcoming and established authors. I haven’t read a short story in a women’s mag since the early 80’s.
    As for the average American’s ignorance of history, I’m not a bit surprised. I’ve met a number of people who know nothing about the Holocaust. On the other hand, we don’t know our own history, so why would we be expected to know what happens/has happened outside our borders?

    • There are even clowns how believe the Holocaust never happened: “fake history” like unto “fake news.” Actually, the Holocaust IS part of our history. World War II is a key part of this country’s history, and the contributions of people who fled the Holocaust and took shelter in North America are also key to our history, science, and economy.

  3. I can remember devouring my mom’s Reader’s Digest and Ladies’ Home Journal, and even the articles in TV Guide. For at least a couple of years when I was in middle school we subscribed to some sciency magazine, And I really enjoyed that too. (I don’t think it was Popular Science, but can’t for the life of me remember what it was.)

    I’m still impressed by the depth and quality of the articles in Smithsonian, which touches on a wide range of subjects from history to technology to culture to psychology. Great stuff!

    I haven’t picked up a women’s magazine in ages–kind of lost interest. May have to scope one out, though I won’t get the advertising/advertorial experience. In fact, other than Smithsonian, The Writer, and a stray copy of Analog, all downloaded in audio format from the NLS, I haven’t picked up a magazine in years. May have to do some poking around. 😀

  4. Lordie, don’t waste your money on any of the current iterations of “women’s” magazines. Next time you’re in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, check one out. It’ll kill all of about three minutes of waiting time.

    Yes, I can remember when Reader’s Digest seemed worth reading…don’t know whether that was because of the pre-adolescent age or the social class or what, but I did enjoy it. Back in the day.

    Smithsonian is good. Also take a look at National Geographic, which hasn’t lost a lot of its touch. Scientific American is somewhat dumbed down these days but contains some interesting pieces. Gosh…is Analog still published? That was one of my favorite magazines. Had to raid the library for it, because of course it was too “boy” (and probably to “adult”) for my parents to feel they should subscribe to it for me. And The Writer…also still in business?

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