The XX Factor

Magazine Heralds a New Golden Age of Print With Six Old White Guys on Its Cover

Which one of these is not like the other one?

Courtesy of Port Magazine

It’s not particularly surprising that when it comes to honoring people in the magazine business—say, at the National Magazine Awards—those singled out for praise are mostly white and male. Knowing this, however, does not make the new issue of Port magazine (a British quarterly that dubs itself “the magazine for men”) any less idiotic. Touting a “New Golden Age” of print publishing on its latest cover (with, hilariously, a story inside about the “end of Time magazine”), Port has chosen a group of six white men to “prove” its “point,” including such newbies as longtime New York editor Adam Moss and longer-time Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. The choice of those particular six white men, most of whom represent legacy publications (GQ, the New York Times Magazine), suggests that Port has an amazingly conservative understanding of what constitutes the new golden age.

If you want to celebrate print magazines, why not feature Janice Min, who is turning the Hollywood Reporter from a dying trade into a thoughtful, glossy exploration of everything Hollywood—from legal issues and legislative fights to the creative challenges of creating prestige television—with a crackling, obsessive website to boot. What about Mother Jones’ Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery, as well as the magazine’s publisher Madeline Buckingham, three women who have demonstrated that you can publish a feisty political magazine, reignite a brand, nurture longform writers like Mac McClelland, and do it all on a nonprofit budget, a model more publications might want to consider as advertising revenues continue to dry up?* Why not talk to Elynn Russell, the president of Texas Monthly, about how state and local magazines have stayed rich, relevant, and visually gorgeous even in a recession? And while I understand the impulse to focus on print, it’s also worth lauding people who are doing innovative magazine-style work that’s primarily online, like Rachel Rosenfelt, who co-founded and edits the New Inquiry.

Ignoring female editors and women’s magazines means you ignore work like Lea Goldman’s feature on the business of breast cancer awareness for Marie Claire, a story Port-featured editor Hugo Lindgren’s New York Times Magazine got to two years later with a (very good) feature by Peggy Orenstein. Allure’s reporting on the health dangers of diet pills may be seen as “just for women,” but we all know that body image and eating disorders are hardly the exclusive problems of one gender. Glamour may file stories like its dispatch on a vocal new generation of anti-rape activists under “Inspiration,” but that readers might be fired up—yes, inspired—by the reporting doesn’t make those stories any less serious. It’s the height of laziness to claim that you’ve discovered a new golden age of magazine publishing in the magazines that are universally acclaimed as attractive and substantive already and to ignore great journalism happening in places and under auspices that are routinely and unfairly dismissed as fluffy or niche, even though the niche they serve happens to be more than half of the population.

By anointing members of the same group of dude-itors identified as a hot new trend back in 2011, Port isn’t just missing out on important issues in publishing, including the movement to improve the number of women’s bylines in precisely these sorts of publications that’s been championed by organizations like VIDA. It’s arguing that the same kind of coverage we’ve been reading for years is somehow new just because the fonts have changed and apps have been rolled out.

I get that Port’s a men’s magazine, and that’s the excuse its editors will probably give for the cover selection. But focusing only on these magazines, and only on male editors, is an exhaustingly crusty vision of what’s new, even if you get Graydon to go tieless on your cover.

Correction, June 11, 2013: This post originally misstated the number of men featured on Port magazine’s cover. It is six, not seven. It also misspelled Clara Jeffery’s last name.