An Open Letter to a Few Good Magazine Editors

Dear Jim, Scott, Graydon, Hugo, Josh, and Adam:

I hope you don’t mind that I’m calling you by your first names, even though I know only one of you. (Josh and I go way back.) I realize I could have just said, “Hey guys!” which, come to think of it, really makes my point for me. But I wanted this note to have the personal touch.

Oh, and I’m talking to you, too, Matt Willey, since you’re credited as the designer of the Port magazine cover that made every woman who saw it choke on her coffee this afternoon. You know the one I mean. It features all six of these fine gentlemen, dressed in dark suits, under the headline “A New Golden Age: The Increasing Importance of Print Media.”

A new golden age! It looks so much like the last one. And the one before that. And — But I’m getting off track. The reason I’m writing to the six of you, and not to Dan Crowe, the editor of Port magazine (although I have a few things to say to him too), is that I want to know: What were you thinking?

Were you aware of the premise for the cover? When you arrived for the photo shoot, did you notice there were no women in the room? Did anyone suggest asking a few women to participate? We look great in dark suits too, especially with a tight skirt! Off the top of my head I can think of a bunch. Anna Wintour, now artistic director of Conde Nast. Tina Brown, of Newsweek/Daily Beast. Ellen Rosenbush, of Harper’s. Bronwen Maddox, of Prospect, not far from you guys in London (by the way, I noticed people are grumbling about how no British magazines were included, as if that were the problem). And that’s even before I get to the “women’s” magazines.

You know why I’m upset? It’s not just because there are so few women at the highest levels of magazine publishing — after all, I just reminded you that some of us have broken through that old glass ceiling. It’s because your magazines owe their success to the labor of women as well as men. Come on — we know you have at least a few women as your deputies, your managing editors, your copy chiefs, your assistants. Not to mention your writers! It’s not okay to ignore them and act like you deserve all the credit. (There might even be a few people of color somewhere in the mix, too.)

By the way, have you guys heard about the VIDA Count? For a few years now, a bunch of women writers and editors have been counting the number of female bylines and books by women in the major book review publications. Let me bring you up to speed: the numbers are bad. And it’s not just book reviewing. Last year no woman was a finalist in any major category at the ASME awards. This year, men won in nearly every category except service and lifestyle.

“Nothing in the magazine world has changed that much,” the Port magazine cover story quotes Graydon Carter as saying. Some things have, actually. Just not who’s in charge. Come on, guys. You’re better than this.

Ruth Franklin

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and contributing editor at The New Republic. This piece originally appeared on her Tumblr. Republished with permission.

Image via Port Magazine