Magazines Are No Longer Journalism?

I’m a magazine major in the J school. J for journalism. So naturally, I believe magazines are a form of journalism—a form that I hope someday, very soon, will be able to financially support my shopping habit. I know a lot of others agree with me.

However, Self editor and chief Lucy Danziger does not agree. At a conference last week she stated that she feels the stock of Self is not in journalism but rather inspiring and informing.

Oh boy.
In all fairness, Danziger was attempting to defend Self against many critics who were unhappy with the Photoshopped September cover of Kelly Clarkson. Unfortunately, she didn’t do such a good job.

She stated that Self is about as honest as magazines get. However, lots of magazines do not use Photoshop in the degree that Self does or did with this photo.

There are several issues to be raised here. Is Danziger saying the stock of her magazine is not in journalism because she knows they are lying to people with photos like these? Is she right when she says Self is just about as honest as it gets? Do women really want to see basically fake photographs on the covers of magazines?

I have my opinions, but I am curious to hear yours.


7 responses to “Magazines Are No Longer Journalism?

  1. lindsaymiller89

    I cannot believe the difference in these photos. I wonder what Kelly Clarkson thought about that cover? I really hope Danziger was kidding when she said her magazine was as honest as it gets. Those kinds of statements really make me wonder what kind of an industry we are getting ourselves into.

  2. Logan, what a great post. You did steal my topic right there!

    I don’t think we can blame Self for photoshopping Kelly Clarkson; every magazine does it. Without Photoshop, magazines won’t sell, period. Raising a concern about the photoshopped Clarkson when everybody else on the magazine is photoshopped doesn’t make sense to me.

    But I do agree that hearing Self editor claimed that her work isn’t journalism left me outraged. What? Isn’t “informing” a part of journalism?

    And what is her justification again? Trying to photoshop Kelly Clarkson to complement the article talking about Clarkson being confident? Can someone smell irony in that?

  3. I think Danziger messed up. She didn’t want to own up to photoshopping a fitness and lifestyle magazine. I don’t even think the photoshopping was severe at all. If you compare those photos, just the way Kelly is standing and the shirt she is wearing can make a difference in her appearance. Danziger would have been fine if she had just said yes, they photoshopped her a little. Sure, many magazines don’t, but most fashion magazines do! And what woman is seriously confident and perfect enough to not want anything to be photoshopped? If I was in a magazine I’d definitely want a touch-up!

  4. In the segment, Danziger describes Self as inspiring and informing, honest as they come, and about trying to be your overall best.

    So, when she said that Kelly isn’t skinny and “we made her look better,” I suppose she was just continuing that virtue of honesty–but not journalism.

    I think it’s fine to touch up a photo so it’s fit to print–it’s a pretty regular occurence, especially (as Kate noted) in the fashion industry. I’m a little disgusted by this example though, or at least how Danziger handled it. Maybe I’m put off because it’s a Fitness magazine and Kelly Clarkson is a wholesome, real-looking woman. Sure, I’d want to look flattering on the cover of a magazine too, but the photoshopping is quite evident.

  5. I agree with Kate and Allison – for this type of magazine I don’t think the photoshopping was that bad. If she had dealt with the criticism in a better way I think things would’ve gone better. As far as this being something that defies journalism, I think we’ve got bigger problems. In this case the only ‘half truth’ that Self is telling is that Kelly isn’t as good looking as she is on the cover, with pro make up, hair, and photoshop. And who would be?

  6. It’s a stretch these days to really call service magazines “honest journalism.” What are they reporting? 10 tips to a flat stomach and ways to improve your sex life. Yeah, those topics sell issues, but in terms of “seeking and reporting truth,” (not to mention newsworthy truth) I think women’s magazines fall short.

    This Kelly Clarkson fiasco is just one example, and I think people are getting tired of it. Just look at the response to Glamour’s Girl on Page 194 (

    People are disenchanted with the facade, and they’re hungry for real truth. Not photoshopped truth. And that’s what will bring journalism back to service magazines.

  7. Inspiring and informing? I wish I could agree. Most people know that what goes in magazines like Self is in some way, shape or form altered. Sad, but true.

    Wouldn’t it be more inspiring to demonstrate honesty and integrity by featuring people as they really are on the cover? Seriously, if they want to inspire people they ought to inspire them to love themselves and provide content outside of the glamorous “Hollywood reality.”

    Great link, Riane. We need to see more images like that.

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