Worthy Of A Read

Posted: May 2, 2014

Rural Pen

Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal magazines were always in my house growing up. Mom loved scanning the pictures, reading the articles, and trying the recipes and decorating ideas contained therein.

Ladies’ Home Journal, after a 130-year run, is stopping monthly publication after its July issue and moving to an online format and printed quarterly, its owner announced last week.

But it’s not for lack of readers that the Meredith Corporation has made this decision. The magazine still has a circulation of 3.2 million, according to several news reports.

The age of the monthly’s readers is the problem: The median being 57. Plus, the magazine is “no longer a leader in the women’s service category,” said company spokesman, Art Slusark, as advertising has dropped by half.

An NPR report about LHJ’s change featured a typical reader. Sarah Chastain, age 72, was, for most of her adult life, a stay-at-home mom. She’s been reading the magazine for “at least 60 years,” and her favorite section is the column, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?”

Even as a SAHM myself, I did not pick up LHJ because of the celebrities on the cover. I might scan through it at the doctor’s office, but I’ve never been interested in the private lives of movie stars.     Even as a young woman, I wondered, at the grocery store, how those celebrity tabloids — such as People, Star and US Weekly — stayed in business. I mean, who buys those things?

“The popular demand for ‘inside’ stories, for vicarious sharing of the private lives of ‘personalities’ rests on the craving for private life — even someone else’s — of those who are dimly aware of having none whatever, or at least no life that holds their interest,” wrote sociologist Ernest van den Haag.

I’m not saying van den Haag is right, just throwing it out there.

What magazines do you read? What does that say about you?

I prefer to read about real people, especially if they’re not in Hollywood or New York or London. That’s why I enjoy local publications such as Bloom, the quarterly women’s magazine published by the Daily News-Record; HealthQuest, the Sentara RMH Medical Center quarterly, and the new Shenandoah Living bimonthly.

Although LHJ often features celebs on its print covers, inside are a variety of topics, such as fashion, beauty, health, food and relationships. The magazine’s most popular column is “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” My favorite type of problem is “Unsolvable Conflicts.”

Who wouldn’t love titles such as, “I’m a Hoarder and my Husband Hates It,” “My Husband is Old-Fashioned and Sexist” and “Our Dog is Coming Between Us.”

First, the complainer has his or her say, then the spouse, then a counselor. Sometimes, the couple gets help, sometimes not. The hoarder discovered the root of her obsession to hold on to things, the sexist husband eventually listened to his wife and the dog lover realized her fixation disguised a deeper need. Not all the marriages end up happily-ever-after, but many do.

It’s a good column. The spouses’ stories help readers (like me) to see opposing points of view and the counselor’s insight is practical.  

These days, LHJ may not be so unique, but it was the first of its kind and it has this incredible longevity. Hearing the recent news reports about it made me take a look at the online version. Most of the articles don’t feature celebs after all.

I really enjoy reading it. Just like Mom.

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney. Contact her at RuralPen@aol.com, on Facebook or care of the DN-R.

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