Archive for July, 2020

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The Year Was 1953. The Magazines And I. Chapter Two, Part Three.

July 30, 2020

The Political Front

In the March 16, 1953 issue of Life magazine the cover had Joseph Stalin and Georgy Malenkov, who briefly succeeded Stalin after his death, super-imposed side-by-side in a very striking image. The writer of the cover story was the British author Edward Crankshaw, who was and is known for his writings about Soviet affairs.

Stalin had recently died and Malenkov was preparing to step into the powerful shoes of the deceased leader. Crankshaw had a flair for the dark and conspiratorial atmosphere that surrounded the Kremlin. From the “poisoning doctors” he writes about to the violence and suspicion that encompassed Stalin’s shadow, the author could set the tone and mood of the actual state of affairs in Russia at that time perfectly.

This beautifully done article that mysteriously weaves the historical story of Stalin’s death and life behind the fearful walls of the Kremlin, is a masterpiece typical of the type of authors and stories that Life gave its readers. Stories of substance, images that could take your breath away. As we delve into this fascinating year 1953, we begin to see the importance of magazines throughout that time. There was no Internet and television was just beginning to find its footing to become what it is today, but magazines could take readers on a journey to Russia to get up close and personal with the body of the prone Stalin. Magazines could transport a secretary in Gary, Indiana smackdab into the middle of the Kremlin. It was a magical time for ink on paper.

When Advertising Was King         

Chapter Two, Part Three

During that momentous time, it wasn’t just the content that could be called an influencer, the ads in the magazines were just as important and amazing. With the end of the Korean war and a new president and first lady in the White House, people in 1953 were ready to start spending money and what better way to grab those dollars than advertising in magazines. The time was right and the possibilities unlimited and magazines were the best way to get a product before the eyes of the country.

Lucky Strike cigarettes, where nothing beat better taste, could fill the back cover of a major magazine, tempting people to find out why they had better taste. A full-page ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer made people realize how thirsty for yeast and hops they were, and because busy people paused for Coke, Coca-Cola became everyone’s drink of choice, busy or not.

It was an advertiser’s dream come true. The ads worked because there were no taboos, cigarettes and beer were the norm for that era. Health and consequences hadn’t even been thought of yet when it came to smoking and drinking.

But it wasn’t just beer and tobacco products that reigned supreme. There were airline ads, hotel ads, automobile ads, tire ads; you name it. Soon, people were driving new cars, flying everywhere and staying in the best hotels. Advertisements in magazines were raking in money, making publications thrive and educating people about the latest and greatest products and trends.

The Dissemination of Information

Getting magazines in the hand of subscribers has always been vitally important to publishers, and in 1953 that statement was no less true.

Congress legislated postage rates until 1970, keeping magazines and newspapers extremely low, allowing them to travel where they were going very reasonably. In 1953, a first-class postage stamp cost $0.03, but it was only $0.02 to send out a magazine, so getting informational content out to a mass audience was not only cost-efficient, it was necessary.

Magazines For The Readers

Even the United Nations had its own magazine United Nations World that was founded in 1947, redesigned in 1950, and once again went through another revamping in March 1953. The publisher introduced those changes by stating:

United Nations World appears in your home and on your newsstand this month wearing a new dress. As you notice, we have completely redesigned our cover in order to make it modern, distinctive and – we hope – strikingly attractive.

 It is fitting that our “cover girl” for this issue should be Elizabeth II. However, the new design was not created by our artists solely as a setting for beauty and queenly dignity. The format you see will be a permanent one.

 The editors have been experimenting for a long time to find a cover which would reflect the spirit and the contents of UN World. On this page, you will find reproduced a few of the previous covers we have used. We feel that the new design is superior to the others but, of course, we are not unprejudiced. So, since this magazine is published for its readers, we are eager to hear what you think. Will you write and tell us?

 Roger S. Phillips

Publisher

 Reflecting – it appears everyone knows what magazines are excellent at, especially the weeklies of that era… They reflected and ruled the space as the Internet of the 1950s, as we’ll see in chapter three.

Coming soon: Chapter Three

 

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The Year Was 1953… The Magazines And I. Chapter Two, Part Two.

July 28, 2020

Chapter Two, Part Two

The 3-D Movement In Magazines

Magazines have always captured trends and movements as though they had a golden net of what would be important and significant to readers. The 3-D movement was something that became very prominent in the movie industry in the 1950s, so, of course, magazines seized their own part of this lucrative medium, with content such as 3-D movie titles, 3-D comics, and just a variety of 3-D entertainment.

Many 3-D buffs consider the 1950s the “Golden Era” of 3-D, simply because some form of the medium has been around for generations. But in the ‘50s, the art took on a different, more vibrant role with the release of the first color stereoscopic feature. It was an amazing process that the public latched onto and loved. And of course, magazines didn’t waste any time in seeing the unique value of this latest trend. Even today that famous picture from Life magazine, the iconic image of a crowded theater with everyone watching a movie wearing 3-D eyeglasses, is a creative piece that is still shown and of interest to people.

Suddenly, the marketplace was consumed with 3-D magazines: 3-D Movie Magazine, 3-D Dimension, 3-D Pinups and 3-D Screen, even Superman himself appeared in his own 3-D magazine in 1953. Magazine publishers knew a great wave when they saw one, and they could ride it better than anything out there.

In December 1953, Harvey Famous Name Comics put out the first issue of True 3D . On the inside page of the front cover of the magazine, the editors announced their excitement in bringing “the most startling magazine produced in three dimensional illustration by our own exclusive process.” Harvey Comics even had a written statement from two optometrists about the visual benefits of reading the 3-D magazine, which came with its own “magic specs.”

Magazines have truly always been ahead of their time in the way they approach the world around us. And in 1953 in particular, 3-D was a vibrant and lucrative way to entertain readers and moviegoers alike, and magazines embraced this old (movies), but new (3-D) technology.

Magazines: The Internet of The 1950s

From Time to Newsweek, the newsweeklies were flourishing; the general interest titles, such as Life and Look were inimitable in their classy style. All of these magazines from 1953 were so dominant and their content so mesmerizing and the designs so stylish, that one couldn’t help but believe the world of magazines was omnipotent in what it did.

And while television (still referred to as the talking piece of furniture in some ads and articles)  was still in its infancy, magazines were really the Internet of 1953, of the 1950s in general. Magazines connected the entire United States and the world. No matter what your interests were, from fiction to science fiction, true crime to celebrity gossip, magazines covered it, no Google necessary.

The Taboo & The Forbidden

At a time when being gay was not something talked about openly, magazines were still exploring their parameters. Disguised as men’s health or fitness magazines, titles such as Muscle Power and Muscle Man, were, for the most part, gay magazines. The readers were primarily gay men who enjoyed looking at the physiques of other men, but because of the times, publishers gave consumers what they wanted in the form of bodybuilding.

And then in January 1953, the first widely distributed publication for homosexuals in the United States published its first issue. One magazine was born during a time when being openly gay was unheard of. A group from Los Angeles, the Mattachine Society, formed by Communist and labor activist Harry Hay and a group of his friends, was determined to protect and improve the rights of gay men. So, in November 1952 they formed ONE Inc. and began publishing the magazine in the new year.

Being a nonprofit organization, ONE Inc. depended on volunteers for its magazine and asked for different variants, such as circulation and advertising representatives, from each city to which the magazine found its way. The magazine paved the way for the OUTs and The Advocates of today.

One ceased publication in 1967 but lives on today thanks to the University of Southern California, where the ONE Archives Foundation—an institution that researches, curates and collects items of importance to the LGBT world resides just off campus.

The magazine reached many landmarks during its existence, including a United States Supreme Court decision for LGBT rights in the United States with One, Inc. v. Olesen in 1958, which was the first time the Court had ever dealt with a homosexual ruling. The Court reversed a lower court decision that declared One magazine had violated obscenity laws. So, for the first time ever there was constitutional protection for pro-homosexual writing. Magazines have never played around when it comes to standing up for themselves.

And when it came to men’s magazines for the heterosexual male, a woman’s naked body was usually described as art or exposed for health reasons. Magazines such as Health and Efficiency, which was touted as the world’s leading naturist journal, and Sunshine & Health were purported to be totally created for health and wellness reasons, but would have naked women on the cover. That is until Playboy came along in December 1953. Hefner pulled no punches, transforming the idea of looking at naked women as artistic into something erotic.

Of course, times were different in 1953, people had different interests and the world, in general, from politics to the politically correct, was totally distinctive from today. But magazines were there to keep the public informed and entertained, just as they are today.

To be continued…

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The Year Was 1953. The Magazines And I. Chapter Two. Part One

July 13, 2020

Chapter Two, Part One

The Year Was 1953…

Change Was the Only Constant

The year was 1953 and it was indeed a pivotal year in history. And while it was certainly a pivotal time for Mr. Magazine™, after all it was the year of his birth – as far as the world goes, the importance of 1953 had more to do with all of the changes that were taking place around the globe, rather than Mr. Magazine’s™ first breath.

In the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th president and in the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II assumed her crown on June 2 following the death of her father, King George VI the previous year, making her one of the youngest queens in history. In the Soviet Union, after over 30 years of ruling with an iron fist, Joseph Stalin died, initiating major changes for that country as well. The Korean War would end that year, and everyone from the East to the West, would witness constant change.

The Societal Mirror Image of Magazines & Their Impact

In the midst of all of these transitions, magazines were reflecting the times perfectly and succinctly. The emergence of a much more dominant type of magazine hit the market in 1953. Two titles that were very important and became a large part of the American magazine scene were TV Guide (April 1953) and Playboy (December 1953). The impact of those magazines was apparent: TV Guide reached a circulation of 18 million, and Playboy 7.4 million.

Niche Has Always Been the Name of The Game                 

However, while those two titles were game changers in the marketplace, taking a look at the many different categories and niche titles that were out there in 1953 is very important and essential, because contrary to popular belief, specialization in magazines started decades before most think it did. With the birth of cable TV in the 1980s, many think niche magazines didn’t actually become prevalent until that decade, due to the many options that cable gave audiences. To combat that choice power the customer suddenly had, publishers realized they could offer the same type of power for readers, so magazines of every genre and subject began to hit newsstands. But that had already happened at least three decades before, maybe even from their inception.

But looking at the magazines of 1953, and specifically from March of that year (the month that Mr. Magazine™ was born) you can see magazines ranging in content from the pure men’s adventure  magazines to the women’s service magazines, to the more specialized titles for gun enthusiasts, motorcyclists, or woodsmen. If there was a topic of interest that people had, there was a magazine on the market for it, even in 1953.

Categories Galore                            

On today’s newsstands, there seems to be a surplus of niche or special interest magazines. Everything from raising chickens in urban settings to the psychological wellbeing of your dog. But special interest titles are far from a new idea. In 1953, there were as many, if not more, special interest magazines in the marketplace as there are today, in the 21stcentury. Titles such as American Woodsman, Modern Airplane News, American Cinematographer, and the list goes on and on. The significant point about this is magazines have known no boundaries when it comes to topics of interest for decades, whatever the reader wants is what you’ll find staring back at you from newsstands, be that a niche genre of information or your more traditional categories of knowledge.

Speaking of traditional categories in 1953, there were women’s service magazines, men’s service magazines, political titles… categories that included science, music, entertainment, both movies and television, children’s magazines, sports magazines, pets, regional titles, every imaginable category that we have today was represented then, along with all of the special interest topics. In fact there were magazines from A (Action) to Z (Zane Grey’s Western) and every thing in between.

Yesterday’s content is as relevant now as it was then simply because it’s still being created today in its current form. The style and the actual information may be different, but the umbrella it sits under is exactly the same. Serving the audience, be it male or female; entertaining children, either through vintage cartoon characters or the latest video games; magazines that bring you the information and fun that you want, whether in yesteryear or the present, cannot be replicated. The words from 1953 are still attainable due to the forever technology of print, and that will be something that people generations from now will be very grateful for, because print will never go away as long as there are human beings around to create it.

Today’s magazine and magazine media industry would be served well if a priority for them consisted of learning from the past. How can you know where you’re going if you don’t understand where you’ve been? This is a question I have long posed.

The Power of a Magazine Introduction

Magazines continued to play that reflective role in society, mirroring all of the changes that were taking place. Whether it was by introducing special issues or covers for notables like President Eisenhower, Queen Elizabeth II, or introducing celebrities and their families, such as the up and coming Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, nothing could or can compare to the effect magazines had and still have on our perception of the world. Magazines interpret, inform and entertain.

To be continued…

 

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Woman’s Day Magazine’s Content Director, Meaghan Murphy, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Our Job Is To Be A Beacon Of Positivity.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

July 8, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (37)

“I wanted to make the magazine a destination celebration, a place where no holiday is left behind, from Taco Tuesday to Christmas, where we celebrate and find the joy in every single day of our lives. I know the magazine is called “Woman’s Day,” but I want us to think of it as “Woman’s Yay.” Everybody got very excited about that vision for the magazine. I mean, Woman’s Day was doing a ton of things right, but I really wanted to surface the joy and the happiness. What I said to the team was let’s just put everything through a fun filter, anything we’re doing let’s put it through that fun filter and make sure there’s joy, discovery and excitement and energy on every page.” … Meaghan Murphy

“We’re definitely finding the “Yay” across all platforms, but the print edition – when you see this first issue, it’s the kind of thing you’re going to want to put on your coffee table and by your bed. The images are beautiful and happy and it feels like a big sunshiny hug. It is a really bright, colorful, happy magazine. And I think people are really going to be excited about it. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to share it.” … Meaghan Murphy

High energy and upbeat. Two descriptions that fit the content director of Woman’s Day magazine to a perfect T. Meaghan Murphy has been at the helm of the brand since right before the pandemic hit, but she was executive editor at Good Housekeeping for years and has a very long and successful career in service journalism, such as her time as the deputy editor and fitness director of Self at Condé Nast.

I spoke with Meaghan recently and we talked about the infusion of joy and happiness that she and her team are bringing to the magazine. Woman’s Day is a legacy brand that has undergone a bit of a change and revitalization, all during a pandemic. But  Meaghan’s energetic and upbeat nature didn’t let a global pandemic stop her, she looked at it as a challenge that would hone the magazine and bring out all the talents her creative team and she had to make Woman’s Day even better.

And now the 37th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Meaghan Murphy, content director, Woman’s Day.

But first the sound-bites:

On reinventing a magazine with the legacy of Woman’s Day during a pandemic: Maybe it’s the okayest of times. (Laughs) I’m going to take the middle road. It was incredibly challenging, but also incredibly fun.

On whether the reinvention started before or during the pandemic: It’s pretty surreal. I got the job right before quarantine, so I was just in the midst of wrapping my head around what Woman’s Day was and what I wanted it to be. I was putting together a team, and the next thing I knew I had my new art director and my new team. I hired someone virtually, from my kitchen table, as my deputy.

On how she approached her new team in that first Zoom meeting with her new ideas for the magazine: I think I just explained that I wanted to make the magazine a destination celebration, a place where no holiday is left behind, from Taco Tuesday to Christmas, where we celebrate and find the joy in every single day of our lives. Everybody got very excited about that vision for the magazine.

On the new message from the reinvented Woman’s Day to its readers and advertisers: I think the message is that there is joy and goodness in every day. And we want the good to be louder, especially in tough times. We want to give you tiny moments of celebration on a daily basis. We have a section of the magazine called the “Smile File” and it’s really based on national days. So, if it’s “National S’mores Day” we’re going to give you an epic new S’mores recipe.

 On what role she thinks print plays in helping people find escape and happiness: We’re definitely finding the “Yay” across all platforms, but the print edition – when you see this first issue, it’s the kind of thing you’re going to want to put on your coffee table and by your bed. The images are beautiful and happy and it feels like a big sunshiny hug. It is a really bright, colorful, happy magazine. And I think people are really going to be excited about it. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to share it.

On what role spirituality will play in the new vision for the magazine: It’s very interesting because one of the first things people asked me when I took on this position was if the Bible verse was going away? And I said why would it? It’s something that people love. We have a faith-based readership and it’s something they really care about. So, instead of putting a little Bible verse on the table of contents or by the masthead, I wanted us to really stand for it. Now is a time people really need to have faith more than ever.

On whether the last four months as she planned for this new issue during a pandemic was a walk in a rose garden or there were some challenges along the way: Yes, there were challenges. First of all, I have three kids, a nine, eight and six-year-old. My husband works full-time and I work full-time. We had no help for the first three months, our babysitter wasn’t able to come into the house, so trying to homeschool, build a new team, finish a book, I have a book coming out in February, doing my podcast; I was juggling three jobs and three homeschool educations.

On whether she thinks the changes the pandemic brought about will remain in place even when it’s behind us: It’s the new “new.” I love the scrappiness of it. I get such a jolt at how scrappy we’ve had to be. Our new cover with our fruit rainbow was created in a garage in the Poconos with fruit from a grocery delivery. And it’s epic.

On how Woman’s Day can bring that message of hope and joy to its readers during these troubling and uncertain times: I think we all have this natural negativity bias and you could watch the news all day and feel like crap all day. And I don’t think that’s healthy. We have to have time for that reality every day and then we need to have more time for the opposite of that for our mental health and our sanity. And I don’t think we need to feel guilty about also finding the joy and having fun, just looking at the flip side of all that stuff.

On anything she’s like to add: I’m super excited about the magazine. We have a small and amazing team. I also have a book coming out in February, which I’m really passionate about. It’s called “The Fully Charged Life” and it’s a radically simple guide to having endless energy and filling every day with Yay. And it’s based in positive psychology. It looks at the signs of  positive psychology within different charges of your life and it gives action-packed tips based on my 25 years as a service journalist in magazines.

On what keeps her up at night: One of my superpowers is a shut-off button. I have an ability to power down at the end of the day and just zone out. It might be because I move at a 150 MPH and just wear myself out, but I do think one of my superpowers is an ability to let it go; just to shut off. And then to pick back up the next morning. So, I don’t lose a lot of sleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Meaghan Murphy, editor in chief, Woman’s Day.

Samir Husni: We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Is this the best of times or the worst of times to reinvent a magazine, especially a magazine with a legacy such as Woman’s Day?

Meaghan Murphy: Maybe it’s the okayest of times. (Laughs) I’m going to take the middle road. It was incredibly challenging, but also incredibly fun.

Samir Husni: Did the reinvention start before or during the pandemic? Did you say, what the heck, I have a new job so let’s the start the magazine over from scratch?

Meaghan Murphy: It’s pretty surreal. I got the job right before quarantine, so I was just in the midst of wrapping my head around what Woman’s Day was and what I wanted it to be. I was putting together a team, and the next thing I knew I had my new art director and my new team. I hired someone virtually, from my kitchen table, as my deputy. So, it was a very crazy process. As magazine editors we’re used to throwing up inspiring visuals on the wall, but this was more Zoom calls. And we had the built-in excuse that if it failed, it was the pandemic. (Laughs)

I made this magazine from my kitchen table. I went into it pretty fearless, realizing that it was the most insane circumstances under which to take on a new job and to reinvent a legacy brand. So, I said what the heck, I have absolutely nothing to lose, it’s a crazy scenario.

Samir Husni: How did you approach your new team during that first Zoom meeting? New leader, new ideas – how did that go?

Meaghan Murphy: I think I just explained that I wanted to make the magazine a destination celebration, a place where no holiday is left behind, from Taco Tuesday to Christmas, where we celebrate and find the joy in every single day of our lives. I know the magazine is called “Woman’s Day,” but I want us to think of it as “Woman’s Yay.” Everybody got very excited about that vision for the magazine. I mean, Woman’s Day was doing a ton of things right, but I really wanted to surface the joy and the happiness. What I said to the team was let’s just put everything through a fun filter, anything we’re doing let’s put it through that fun filter and make sure there’s joy, discovery and excitement and energy on every page.

My team had already seen me dancing around the hallways as the executive editor of Good Housekeeping, so they knew my energy. And knew that I wanted to bring that energy to the magazine. Woman’s Day was doing a great job, but I wanted to give it a little lightning bolt zap and fully recharge it. That’s kind of what I’m known for.

Yay is my favorite word. I do something called the “Yay List” which is like a virtual gratitude item, asking people to find the good in everything. So, I wanted to bring that Yay to “Woman’s Yay.”

Samir Husni:  What is the new message from the reinvented Woman’s Day to your readers and advertisers?

Meaghan Murphy: I think the message is that there is joy and goodness in every day. And we want the good to be louder, especially in tough times. We want to give you tiny moments of celebration on a daily basis. We have a section of the magazine called the “Smile File” and it’s really based on national days. So, if it’s “National S’mores Day” we’re going to give you an epic new S’mores recipe. If it’s “National Swimming Pool Day” and we know you can’t get to a swimming pool, we’re going to give you the coolest sprinkler for your backyard to make that more fun.

On “National Junk Food Day” we’re going to ask you to match the celebrity to their favorite junk food. On “National Book Lover’s Day” we’re going to give you the ultimate beach reading list. It’s really about realizing that every day, every second, you have a choice to find the good and to celebrate life. We lead with love and we look at the world through that fun filter. And I really want Woman’s Day to be an escape for people. A place where you can go to feel happy and excited; to forget for a second everything that’s going on in the world and everything that could be bringing you down. To escape the news cycle.

Samir Husni: What role do you think print plays in helping people to escape and find that happiness and joy?

Meaghan Murphy: We’re definitely finding the “Yay” across all platforms, but the print edition – when you see this first issue, it’s the kind of thing you’re going to want to put on your coffee table and by your bed. The images are beautiful and happy and it feels like a big sunshiny hug. It is a really bright, colorful, happy magazine. And I think people are really going to be excited about it. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to share it.

Samir Husni: I’ve heard that you’re also adding a chief spiritual editor; there’s been a Bible verse by the masthead in every issue since the magazine started. What role will spirituality play in the new vision of the magazine?

Meaghan Murphy: It’s very interesting because one of the first things people asked me when I took on this position was if the Bible verse was going away? And I said why would it? It’s something that people love. We have a faith-based readership and it’s something they really care about. So, instead of putting a little Bible verse on the table of contents or by the masthead, I wanted us to really stand for it. Now is a time people really need to have faith more than ever.

So, I tapped my friend  Candace Cameron Bure, who is someone I’ve always admired for her strong faith and her commitment to her family. I told her that I would love to give her an opportunity every month to share a Bible passage that was meaningful to her and to talk about how it shaped her life, then invite other people into that conversation.

Some of the things that do incredibly well for us digitally are our Bible verses. Bible verses for hope in trying times; Bible verses for love. So, it was something that I felt was very important to stand for and to shine a light on. And to bring it further into the conversation versus a small Bible verse kind of buried in the front of the book. If this matters to our readers, I want to make it louder. Candace was honored and incredibly thrilled to be able to have this platform to speak about her faith because it is so important to her.

Samir Husni: Have the last four months, as you planned for this first new issue during a pandemic, been a walk in a rose garden for you or were there some challenges along the way?

Meaghan Murphy: Yes, there were challenges. First of all, I have three kids, a nine, eight and six-year-old. My husband works full-time and I work full-time. We had no help for the first three months, our babysitter wasn’t able to come into the house, so trying to homeschool, build a new team, finish a book, I have a book coming out in February, doing my podcast; I was juggling three jobs and three homeschool educations. My husband is amazing, he cooks dinner and that’s our secret sauce because I don’t do any cooking, but I will share great recipes in Woman’s Day for my husband to make.

So, there were endless challenges. It’s almost laughable. I’d think how did I do that? That was nuts! It’s really been a surreal trajectory, but I’m also really grateful for the new perspective. I realize that I don’t need to commute to the city five days a week to make a killer magazine. I think it will forever change the way that I work, even when we’re back in the Tower. I don’t see myself commuting five days a week. We’ve done an incredible job remotely. We’ve been a very nimble, small, but mighty team.

And I’m really grateful for the time I’ve gained with my family. Family dinners weren’t something that we were able to have every night before this, because I was commuting from the city, my husband was commuting home from Princeton. But now Taco Tuesday is a national holiday at Team Murphy house. Every Taco Tuesday since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve added a decoration, just other elements, to it. I have many sombreros for the night. We have taco napkins and plates; my daughter made garland. We made our own placemats. My kids are always saying when the pandemic is over, we can never walk away from Taco Tuesday again. And I say don’t worry we won’t.

It’s also sort of informal the way I’m making the magazines. In our recipe section “What’s For Dinner Tonight?” we still have the amazing 20-minute meals that you can put on the table, but we added an element that became incredibly important to me, with the eye-opening experience of the pandemic and the return to family. We have “Table Talk.” You’re eating with people and you’re engaging and communicating. It’s these moments of family and connection and engagement that are really going to get us all over these tough times.

Samir Husni: What are your expectations for the future? Do you think that the changes that the pandemic has brought about will remain in place even when it’s behind us?

Meaghan Murphy: So, it’s the new “new.” I love the scrappiness of it. I get such a jolt at how scrappy we’ve had to be. Our new cover with our fruit rainbow was created in a garage in the Poconos with fruit from a grocery delivery. And it’s epic.

I’m so proud of this magazine. We did it and we wouldn’t have gotten that same sense of accomplishment if it had been easy. When things are hard, it just makes it that much more awesome when you succeed. And we even changed the logo. It’s just so exciting. I can’t wait to frame it in my office. We looked back at the 1950s and some old iterations of Woman’s Day and did some of that.

And my favorite thing about the magazine is there are little moments of discovery on every page. You’ll notice a little flag that reads “Yay” on a watermelon. There are these little moments of joy throughout. My other favorite section is called “Hello, That’s Adorable.” It’s the wreath of the month on a front door. And because it’s a front door, every month it says “Knock, knock, we’ve got a joke for you.” And there’s a joke on the door. The wreath is a flamingo and we made it in quarantine and shot it somehow. And we asked what’s the opposite of a flamingo? A fla-ming-stop. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: How can Woman’s Day bring that message of hope and joy to your readers during these troubling and uncertain times?

Meaghan Murphy: I think we all have this natural negativity bias and you could watch the news all day and feel like crap all day. And I don’t think that’s healthy. We have to have time for that reality every day and then we need to have more time for the opposite of that for our mental health and our sanity. And I don’t think we need to feel guilty about also finding the joy and having fun, just looking at the flip side of all that stuff. There is a lot that sucks right now; there’s a lot that’s tough and hard. And if that’s all you dwell on and you just live in that place, you’re going to be miserable. And miserable people don’t change the world.

It’s okay to be positive and it’s okay to find moments of joy and to celebrate. Celebrations are good for our mental and physical health. We cannot allow ourselves to only be sucked into that negative vortex. It’s so easy to find the bad right now because the bad is so very loud. Our job is to be a beacon of positivity and to give people moments of reprieve from that.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Meaghan Murphy: I’m super excited about the magazine. We have a small and amazing team. I also have a book coming out in February, which I’m really passionate about. It’s called “The Fully Charged Life” and it’s a radically simple guide to having endless energy and filling every day with Yay. And it’s based in positive psychology. It looks at the signs of  positive psychology within different charges of your life and it gives action-packed tips based on my 25 years as a service journalist in magazines.

It all spring boarded from an article I wrote for Cosmo called “The Seven Secrets of Happiness” many years ago that finally flipped a switch for me that happiness is a choice and there are exercises and things that we can do to move toward happiness. That book and the tips and strategies in there have 100 percent informed everything that I’m doing with my team. When I’m coaching them through tough days and when we’re weathering some tough storms. It’s not easy to work remotely with everyone having different challenges. I’m using all those tips and strategies to do this. And it really does inform where Woman’s Day has come.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Meaghan Murphy: One of my superpowers is a shut-off button. I have an ability to power down at the end of the day and just zone out. It might be because I move at a 150 MPH and just wear myself out, but I do think one of my superpowers is an ability to let it go; just to shut off. And then to pick back up the next morning. So, I don’t lose a lot of sleep.

That’s not to say I don’t have worries during the day and I’m not fully aware of the challenges that life is bombarding us with right now, but I have found an ability to say it’s time to let go and recharge and pick it back up in the morning.  I sleep like a baby.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Magazines And I… Memoirs Of A Magazine Junkie. Chapter One, Part Three…

July 2, 2020

My Family Roots

Yep, that’s me at two and a half years of age.

There were five children in my family, my older sister, my three brothers and I. My eldest brother, who was three years older than me, died in 1999 of multiple sclerosis. He was the pride of the family and carried my grandfather’s name – Khalil, like Kahlil Gibran, but spelled correctly. He was the first one in our entire family to have a Ph.D. – it was in English Literature and from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. My sister and my two younger brothers are still in Lebanon. I am the poor, misunderstood middle child and maybe that explains my tendencies to be different from what my family deems “normal.” My wife, Marie, is also the middle child. Possibly the reason we understand each other so very well.

My father was Presbyterian and my mother was Greek Orthodox. They moved from the village called Hakour 20 miles to the north of the big city of Tripoli so my dad could find work. My grandfather was the mouhtar of the village, and we had olive groves and an olive mill to make olive oil. When my parents married, my mom was 14 and my dad was 20. It took my mom five years until she had her first child. It was always looked upon as wrong if you didn’t have a child. My dad was the only son, and he had six sisters. My mom had no brothers. So I had no uncles – just aunts.

Dad found work at the Iraqi Petroleum Company, which was owned by the British. He worked in shifts, and whenever there was a holiday they paid him double. When I was born in 1953, Tripoli was the second largest city in Lebanon. Tripoli comes from the word Tri-po-lis, which goes back to Greek or Roman days, and means the tri-city. The city flooded in 1955 when the river, Abu Ali, overflowed. For some reason, I can remember my dad carrying me on his shoulders and walking in the mud. I was only two, but I recall that he was wearing rubber boots and the mud was high. We lived on the first floor, of the apartment building nd the entire floor was filled with mud.

Our family of seven lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Mom and Dad had a room and the rest of us shared a room. Being Presbyterian, we kids were sent to a Presbyterian school started by American missionaries. From the first day that you start school at age three, you learned to speak, read, and write Arabic and English at the American school or Arabic and French at the French school. If you were Presbyterian, you went to the American school.

We had two American schools: the boys’ school and the girls’ school, run by Presbyterian missionaries. It wasn’t until 1958 that the missionaries gave the schools to the Presbyterian Senate in Lebanon and Syria to be run by locals. The American boys’ school was a good walk away on a hilltop, and the girls’ school was closer to our house, so that’s where I went, the girl’s school, until the third grade.

They were actually called Tripoli Boys School (TBS) and Tripoli Girls School (TGS), but everybody referred to them as American Schools. Today they are combined and called Tripoli Evangelical School (TES). After third grade, the boys and girls went to separate schools. That was the environment that I grew up in.

Words of Wisdom

My grandfather Khalil.

My dad Afif.

From an early age, my dad used to give me what he thought the principles of life were that any employed man should live by: comb your hair, keep your clothes clean and shine your shoes. Simple as that. Before school, he’d shine our shoes. Or if he was busy, he’d get somebody to do it for him. He was so adamant about this, and neither he nor my mom even had a high school education. They did their best to study English on their own because most of his employers were British. Because of this, my parents recognized the importance of education early on, and invested in private schools.

Names carry heavy meaning with them in middle eastern culture. All children carry their father’s first name as their middle name. First born sons have the privilege of naming their own first born sons after their fathers. So after my brother was diagnosed with MS and before his death in 1999, he gave me his blessing and his privilege of naming any son that I might have after my dad, “Afif” (Afif is the French spelling that we Americanized to Afeef, the English spelling for easier pronunciation), because he would never have the opportunity to do so. Sometime after that, when my wife was pregnant with my son, I was on the phone with my father and he asked me when he was going to have his “Afeef.” Until that point, we had not truly considered calling our son Afeef. After that, we knew we had to honor my brother’s memory and my father’s wishes and give him a namesake. When my son, Afeef, was born, Dad said he could die in peace.

That’s why a name is so important – it’s a commitment, a culmination of all things past and present that make up a deeper meaning for all who hear it. Some people have asked me why I would call my son a difficult name like Afeef in America. People don’t understand the importance of that name. My dad’s name was Afif, which means pure, and my mom’s name is Afifi, which is exactly the same thing, just feminine. They were not related, just pure coincidence. In Arab culture, often times people can distinguish what religion you are based on your name. All of the names of the children in my family were genuine Arabic names, not named after any particular saint or prophet. My grandfather used to say all the time that people should know your religion by deeds, not by what you tell them, not by what they call you. Myth has it, or what I heard growing up, that if you are Presbyterian and you appear in court, you don’t have to swear on the Bible because Presbyterians don’t swear. Only one percent of Lebanon is Presbyterian.

The True Beginning

In the ninth grade, I started calling and harassing editors and complaining to them. That was about the time I started creating my own small magazines. Because at that age, we would visit my grandparent’s village in the summer where there were no magazines. I felt like I had magazine asthma without my ink on paper. I started making my own as an idea to kill time. I would borrow my grandfather’s transistor radio and all day I would sit down and create my own little daily. I’d use candles from my grandmother’s house, rubbing the candles on paper and then rubbing the paper back on old newspapers to get pictures. I’m not sure how I knew to do that, how I knew that images could be lifted in that way, but I did. And I was ecstatic.

That was when I discovered the concept of what I now believe in wholeheartedly. It’s what I preach, teach and consult about: the audience of one.

In those early publications of mine, I was the editor, designer, reporter, and the publisher. At the end of the day, I’d sit down and read my own creations. This whole concept of one theory was both an epiphany and also unbelievable to me. I made my magazines for me, to my specifications. Those may have been some of the first niche productions. At that point in time, without really realizing it, I had targeted an audience: myself.

The First Byline

But the breakthrough in my childhood magazine career happened when I had the opportunity to visit Beirut in 1969 and tour some actual magazine publications. I met the publisher of a magazine called Happy Homes, and I told him how much I loved the magazine. On the day I left Beirut, his wife called me and asked if I wanted to be the correspondent from the north for the magazine. I said absolutely.

My first assignments consisted of sending actual reports from our area of the country back to Beirut. It wasn’t long until I was doing “News from the North” with my byline. I would include items like “so and so died or so and so got married.” I actually still have a copy of that. My cousin sent me a copy because I wrote a piece about her when she was christened and included her picture. The combination of doing my own writing and starting to buy every issue I could get my hands on changed my approach to things in junior high and later in high school. At that time the number of titles flooding the marketplace continued to grow, names like Superman, Tarzan, Batman, and even an Egyptian magazine called Magic Carpet, with the title characters Mickey and Samir.

Even having a magazine with my name it continuously didn’t satisfy me. I wanted all magazines in general. During that time period, I was very involved with my church. It was not an option for us growing up. If it was Sunday, that meant Sunday school and church. I remember spending my Sunday allowance, which my dad gave me 50 cents, one quarter for Sunday school and one for a piece of cake from the pastry store next to the church. One time, on my way to church, I lost one of the quarters. It was a big debate. Did I lose the Sunday school quarter or the pastry quarter? I made up my mind. God can see everything. That was his quarter and he knew where it was. My parents didn’t seem to agree. I don’t think my parents ever really understood my magazine obsession. Their dream was for me to either go to seminary because I was so involved with the church and become a preacher, or become a dentist- both noble professions in their eyes.

Math Meets Magazines

In 2018 I went back to Tripoli to visit my high school which is now renovated and used as a public school. TBS merged with TGS to form Tripoli Evangelical
School for Boys and
Girls and is located outside the city limits of Tripoli.

Tripoli Boys School, better known as the American School. An archive picture from TBS Facebook page.

In Lebanon, once you reach the tenth grade, you declare an education concentration: science or literary. And if you are going to dental school, you have to go with science and take classes like physics, geometry and calculus. If you want to study languages, you do literary.

It was a struggle. I had to listen to my dad. I went with the scientific orientation. I’d be sitting in the geometry class, which I was never good at because I never had any patience to sit down and find the area of a triangle or a circle; I’d find myself sitting in class relating the triangles and circles to magazines. What would I create? My entire notebook had more magazine covers than any geometry problems.

I was an average student in high school, but that fascination was always with me. It led me to daydream a lot about this business. Triangles and circles became magazines. And of course, I discovered how this business worked. I learned about wholesalers, distribution, which day they would go on sale, etc. I worked my way from the newsstand sellers to the wholesalers. I tracked the line backwards from how the magazine came to the consumer.

It was at that time that I became acquainted with the wholesale distribution house in Tripoli, which was owned by a family called Jarrous. And because the man had told me to start coming at night so that I could see the magazines before anyone else, I became a fixture there. The distribution house was in an alley near the old center of Tripoli. I remember the first time before he offered me the see-before-anyone opportunity, I would stand sheepishly by the door because I didn’t want them to scream at me. The magazines were unloaded and people from newsstands came to collect them. One day I got the guts to go in and ask the guy if I could take a look. A few days later, I talked to him and he began to explain how distribution worked. It was so fascinating to me that he’d let me see magazines before they were on the newsstands. It was on one of those days when Mr. Jarrous asked me if I wanted to come the night before and he’d let me take whatever magazines I wanted so I wouldn’t be late for school. I would have magazines in my hand before anybody else in the entire city. I don’t think I slept that night.

All the while I stayed on the scientific course I had set for myself. I loved algebra and loved statistics, but I hated geometry. When I took the national test, the math exam was all on geometry. I flunked it badly. But when things were tough, I fell back on my hobby, when things were dark, I’d start dreaming, and when things were light, I kept on going.

The Success of Failure

Since that time, I have thought about one defining fact in my life, if I hadn’t flunked that year, my whole academic career would have ended one year earlier. My life would have been tragically different. I would have graduated before the Civil War in Lebanon began. I wouldn’t have met my wife and I wouldn’t have had a job at the newspaper. So many things would have been different. But there is a reason for everything, I truly believe.

When I was repeating that year, my youth director came to me one day and said, “Samir what have you decided you want to do?” I said that I didn’t know – my parents wanted me to go to seminary or dental school. He looked me in the eye and said he knew it wasn’t his place to disagree with my parents, but, “If you do anything in your life besides journalism, you are disregarding the gift that God has given you.  You don’t have to be a preacher to tell people about God and his love. You don’t have to be a dentist and spend the whole day looking in people’s mouths. God has given you this gift called journalism, and that’s what you need to do.” That year I passed the exam because it was mainly algebra and statistics, and I told my parents that I was going to journalism school.

I had built up these expectations that they were going to be angry. But amazingly, they were resigned to the fact that this was going to be my chosen path. I realized that this was it. What I had been dreaming of the last decade from age 10 to 19 was about to become a reality. I was going to journalism school.  And they said okay. So in 1978, I packed up my life and my wife, and I traveled to the United States of America to pursue that dream where my moniker Mr. Magazine™ was born in May of 1986.

And now, I have the opportunity to share that dream with the entire world and reflect on life in magazines during the month and year in which I was born: March 1953. Please join me in viewing a snapshot of American magazine history that neither Google nor internet search engine can provide.  Those memories are alive and well on these pages.

Chapter Two coming soon… The Year Was 1953

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