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The Most Influential Print Magazine Editors?

Posted on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Earlier this month, Port magazine sparked quite the controversy with its Summer 2013 cover.

By Meredith L. Dias

Quarterly men's magazine Port released the cover of its Summer 2013 issue, which boldly declares a "new golden age" in print publishing. The feature, which emphasizes the "increasing importance of print media," focuses on the six magazine editors Port considers to be the most influential in the business.

In theory, this could have been the feel-good article of the year. It comes at a time when the magazine conversation has been focused almost entirely on digital, and good news about print has been sometimes hard to find. However, instead of sparking widespread discussion of the current state of print media, the article made waves because the league of extraordinary editors consisted entirely of white men.

The Industry Reaction

While Port's selections might not come as a surprise given its target demographic, the media reaction to the cover was swift and, in some cases, brutal. Headlines included:

--"The 'Golden Age' of Magazines, Brought to You by White Dudes" (Salon.com)
--"Magazine Heralds a New Golden Age of Print with Six Old White Guys on Its Cover" (Slate.com)
--"It's Still a Golden Age of Magazine Publishing for White Dudes" (TheAtlanticWire.com)
--"This Magazine Thinks Only White Men Contribute to the Golden Age of Print" (PolicyMic.com)

Commentary and analysis have run a pretty wide gamut. In the TheAtlanticWire.com piece, Connor Simpson writes, "White guys like Paul Thomas Anderson and Will Ferrell have appeared on the last six covers of the quarterly, so the all-white dude lineup of the 'New Golden Age' issue wasn't out of keeping. But if they were going to put six guys on the cover, why not find at least one editor who is a person of color or female or both?"

Alyssa Rosenberg of Slate.com agrees that Port's choice is "not particularly surprising." However, she doesn't let the magazine off the hook for its choice of industry-leading editors: "The choice of these 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."

Danielle Paradis of PolicyMic.com summed up the problem at the end of her article: "If the editors of Port magazine are having trouble finding women editors, it may be due to the thickness of the glass, and vanilla ceiling."

Other female editors and journalists took to their respective websites and blogs to voice their outrage over the industry roundup that neglected them in such striking visual fashion. Evette Dionne, daily editor of Clutch magazine, published an article entitled, "Dear Sexists, Women Offer Serious Journalism." Maya Dusenbery, a contributor at Feministing.com, published "Magazine Cover Featuring Six Old White Dude-itors Prompts #WomenEdsWeLove."

The Social Media Reaction

Dusenbery's headline brings us to the social media reaction. Men and women alike flocked to Twitter and Facebook to pay homage to their favorite women editors. Amy Wallace, editor-at-large for Los Angeles magazine and a GQ correspondent, started a Twitter hashtag frenzy with #WomenEdsWeLove. The hashtag became so popular that Poynter.org featured it in a recent piece, "#WomenEdsWeLove Creator: 'Female Editors 'Are Not Invisible' & 'They're Not That Hard to Find.'"

The magazine cover also made it over to social blogging site Tumblr, where it was featured on the 100 Percent Men "Boys Clubs" page, whose description reads, "Corners of the world where women have yet to tread."

Port's Response

The outcry over the Summer 2013 issue has forced Port editor-in-chief Dan Crowe into the spotlight to defend the cover. His initial statement added fuel to the fire: "It is a shame there isn't, for example, a gay person or black woman editor in there, but unfortunately these are not the people editing these magazines." Evette Dionne of Clutch magazine responded, "Crowe's excuses highlight an issue often not discussed in the magazine business. Publications geared toward women, specifically women of color, are not considered 'serious' or 'thought-provoking' enough to be included in the new, golden age of publishing." Similar discussions about the "seriousness" (or perceived lack thereof) in women's journalism have raged nonstop since the release of the Port cover.

On Friday, Crowe amended his initial statement: "I really don't care who edits those magazines, if they were all black, or all white, or all women, or all men, or rabbits -- I don't care. I'm aware that -- and I was aware -- that putting five [sic] white guys on the cover was going to be difficult, but you know, tough s**t. That's my opinion."

Rounding Up the Controversy

The controversy over Port's cover isn't likely to die soon. It has sparked important industry-wide conversations and debates about the state of women's journalism and public perception of women's magazines. It has raised the question of whether or not there is an "old boys' club" at work in the magazine publishing industry. Nearly three weeks later, these conversations are going strong.

Lost in the commotion, however, is the topic that spawned the notorious cover in the first place: What are some of the successful strategies of thriving print magazines? Are we truly in a "golden era" of print magazine publishing?

Meredith L. Dias is senior editor of Editors Only.

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