Marie Claire may be on its last legs, but long live magazines
Like a fabulous meal and the best kind of stimulating dinner party conversation all in one delicious package
People often ask me if I had a game plan for my career. My answer is: no. I have never been one of those super insightful people whose life is like a Kasparov chess game. The next few steps have always been opaque. I live in the moment. Happily, journalism is a place where the moment can be so all consuming and adrenaline driven that the moment is always more than enough.
So when I got the call to come and talk about editing Marie Claire magazine, it was not part of my grand plan. It was, however, a momentous occasion which panned out well because I got to edit one of the world’s most fascinating and gratifying glossy magazines. It was as if it had been tailor made for me and my interests. News, reportage, feminism, fashion and great big dollops of high and popular culture. It was like a fabulous meal and the best kind of stimulating dinner party conversation all in one delicious package: a beautiful, charming and enlightening documentary of a contemporary woman’s life that would equip and delight our readers in equal parts.
My boss Vanessa Raphaelly would hold up a single question as our driving editorial raison d’etre: “Who gives a fuck?” It transpires many women did. Often they did not agree with our plans or executions; many editorials were questioned and led to dramatic debates (sometimes on a national and even international scale). We felt heartened when this happened. It might be extremely stressful to go viral and receive Twitter threats, but it shows that people are engaged with big ideas – even if they don’t agree with them. And that is a good thing, always.
Many of the subjects we dealt with are still unresolved: sexual harassment and violence, poverty, political nefariousness, inequity, backlogs in the way we represent women and try to sell them things . But we made inroads and a huge effort to tackle issues that were not just about fripperies and sexual positions. (Ouch.) All this while creating a lovely and enticing package. I was understandably upset when I read last week that December is the last issue of Marie Claire SA in its current iteration. I edited it for six years so it felt personal.
Magazines do something very special. It’s a kind of magic (the best ones suspend time); when you read them you are transported and challenged and above all entertained. They are like a mental holiday. Women often treat them like a luxury, which is telling – even though they cost less than a cappuccino. There is a perfect storm in the glossy magazine industry right now. I cannot explain it in its entirety but I can mourn the passing of some wonderful titles. I hope this industry does not die. We all need the magic. I know that in our work, which takes the best of glossy mag culture and delivers it straight into the hands of our newspaper subscribers, we carry the torch of these magazines in our hearts. Our magazines in the Sunday Times, Sowetan, and Business Day – the Edit, Edit Man, Edit Living, Sowetan Mag, ACTIVE, and Wanted – carry this flame.