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advertising2(1) - Article 28 Sex Lies Advertising GLORIA S...

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Article 28 Sex, Lies & Advertising GLORIA STEINEM Gloria Steinem was a founding editor of “Ms.” in 1972 and is now its consulting editor. She is also at work on “The Bed- side Book of Self-Esteem” for Little, Brown. A bout three years ago, as glasnost was beginning and Ms. seemed to be ending I was invited to a press lunch for a Soviet official. He enter- , tained us with anecdotes about new problems of democracy in his country Local Communist leaders were being criticized in their media for the first time, he explained, and they were angry “So I’ll have to ask my American friends,” he finished pointedly, “how more subtly to control the press.” In the silence that followed, I said, “Advertising.” The reporters laughed, but later, one of them took me aside: How dare I suggest that freedom of the press was limited? How dare I imply that his newsweekly could be influenced by ads? I explained that I was thinking of advertising’s me- diawide influence on most of what we read. Even news- magazines use “soft” cover stories to sell ads, confuse readers with “advertorials,” and occasionally self-censor on subjects known to be a problem with big advertisers. But, I also explained, I was thinking especially of women’s magazines. There, it isn’t just a little content that’s devoted to attracting ads, it’s almost all of it. That’s why advertisers-not readers-have always been the problem for Ms. As the only women’s magazine that didn’t supply what the ad world euphemistically de- scribes as “supportive editorial atmosphere” or “comple- mentary copy” (for instance, articles that praise food/ fashion/beauty subjects to “support” and “comple- ment” food/fashion/beauty ads), Ms. could never attract enough advertising to break even. “Oh, women S magazines,” the journalist said with con- tempt. “Everybody knows they’re catalogs-but who cares? They have nothing to do with journalism.” n Suppose archaeologists of the 1 future dug up women’s magazines and used them to judge American women. What would they think of us-and what can we do about it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this argument in 25 years of working for many kinds of publications. Except as moneymaking machines-“cash cows” as they are so elegantly called in the trade-women’s magazines are rarely taken seriously Though changes being made by women have been called more far-reaching than the ! industrial revolution-and though many editors try hard to reflect some of them in the few pages left to them after all the ad-related subjects have been covered-the magazines serving the female half of this country are still far below the journalistic and ethical standards of news and general interest publications. Most depressing of a& ?
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