Q. What do teen hairstyles, 'fun quizzes', teen fashion and the 2012 presidential elections have in common?
A. Seventeen magazine.
The light-hearted publication targeted at American teens is one of several magazines making serious efforts to involve its readers in political debate. Through its Electionista blog, Seventeen electoral coverage for teens and provides a platform for young women to air their politics-related views and opinions. In a section titled If I were President, 17-year-old Emma Leibowitz shares her experience of attending the Young Women’s Political Leadership Programme and Bostonian Aditi tells readers what it’s like being a Republican in an area famous for its Democrat-voting population.
Electoral coverage is nothing new for some glossy magazines. When Vanity Fair sent Michael Lewis to shadow President Obama for a period of eight months, the only thing that raised eyebrows about the ensuing article was Lewis’s revelation that the White House had insisted on quote approval. Male style bible GQ has always followed political events but this year has gone even further in its efforts, with the "Death Race 2012" blog. By posting video gems like “Snoop Dog Endorses” it has done an excellent job of combining humorous pieces with informative articles.
The difference is that while GQ and Vanity Fair have long been noted for the quality of their articles and high editorial values, Glamour and similar publications are better known for their focus on celebrity gossip, make-up tips and fashion. As a result these magazines are struggling in their efforts to have their electoral coverage taken seriously.
Following reports that President Obama had given an interview for Glamour’s November issue, attempts by lifestyle titles to produce credible political content were widely ridiculed by the members of the media and political establishment.
However, both news titles and politicians would be advised to tread carefully before completely dismissing lifestyle magazines’ treatment of political issues. Glossies such as Seventeen, Glamour and Cosmopolitan speak directly to a demographic that editors and political advisers alike are keen to engage: young female audiences. Seventeen alone sells 20 million copies a year, and despite its teenage target audience is also reaching a significant proportion of 18-24 year old university students.
AdWeek’s Emma Bazilian recently interviewed Glamour’s Editor-in-Chief, Cindi Lieve, about the magazine’s attempts to raise its audience’s political awareness. Lieve made the rather salient point that “For any candidate to address 51 percent of the voting population is not silly or fluffy—it’s good common sense.” Indeed, according to a report on Glamour’s election blog, women in the U.S. are more likely to be non-voters than men, but if all non-voting women were to go to the polls, Obama would be re-elected. Little wonder then that the POTUS was so willing to grant the publication an interview.