Women's Magazines: A Liberal Pipeline to Soccer Moms
High-circulation women's and family magazines use most of their ink to focus on lifestyle issues -- relationships between dating and married couples, parenting, home decorating, fashions and personal care, and dieting. Surprisingly, many also deal with public policy issues relating to government activism and women's and families' health and safety.
A joint Consumer Alert / Media Research Center study of 13 women's and family magazines analyzed the October 1995 through September 1996 issues for their policy-oriented coverage. Part I of the study reviewed whether expansion of government programs was depicted positively or negatively. Part II looked at the magazines' depiction of risk in discussing public policy issues relating to health and safety. The study found:
In the 13 magazines studied, there were 115 positive portrayals of government activism and/or calls for more. There were only 18 negative portrayals and/or calls for less.
Twenty-three stories went beyond promoting bigger government -- they
also asked readers to lobby government officials on behalf of expanded
In 56 articles or mentions of science and risk issues, 35 were one-sided and did not acknowledge a skeptical view that the risks depicted were minor and the alarmist views presented go against mainstream science.
According to women's magazines, recycling is always good. Out of 15 stories that mentioned recycling, there was not one skeptical argument presented that sometimes recycling is impractical and wastes resources.
Women's magazines featured numerous warnings about unsafe drinking water, yet routinely bashed chlorine as unsafe, even though chlorine provides the most effective protection against waterborne diseases.
Recommendations: Look for balance in coverage of public policy issues. Note who the spokespersons are for a particular point of view. Is there a pattern in who is depicted as the good guys (or gals) and bad guys? Be skeptical of articles that provide only anecdotal information instead of scientific evidence.