Angela Asks: What Are Magazines For?


I’ve found myself asking the question “what are magazines for?” over the past few days.

And it’s been prompted in part by all the recent news coverage of a desperately sad story of personal tragedy.

I’m not going to comment on that.

But after a few days, in amongst the discussion and debate and recriminations and sorrow and grief, magazines began to be mentioned. In particular, women’s magazines.

As the Editor of the longest-running women’s magazine of them all, I paid attention.

A trend was developing. In hairdressers and beauticians across the UK, proprietors were removing women’s magazines from their salons. It was their way of saying enough is enough to the culture of destructive celebrity gossip.

As one Edinburgh hairdresser put it: “. . . the negativity bred in these magazines is not healthy. Pages and pages of negativity, fat-shaming, shaming celebs with no makeup and much more.”

It doesn’t have to be this way

It doesn’t have to be this way. The “Friend” is proof of that.

I’m proud to edit a magazine that prizes values of decency and kindness, that celebrates the good in people instead of criticising their flaws.

You will never read a cruel feature of any description in “The People’s Friend”. I can guarantee that. Instead, we aim with every issue to make people feel better for having read it.

And this isn’t a new thing.

Since its very first issue, published in 1869, “The People’s Friend” has stayed true to the aim of its founder:

“I want it to be largely written by women for women, and by good women to make other women good.”

Which brings me back to my opening question.

What are magazines for?

I have spent my whole working life in the world of magazines.

Long before that, I was a reader of magazines. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the floor with my mum, reading my copy of “Twinkle”.

From there I graduated to comics, teenage magazines like “Patches”, “Blue Jeans” and “Jackie”; “Pony” and “Your Horse” (I was horse-mad) and, daringly, new kid on the block “Just Seventeen”.

All of those titles fostered my dreams. They informed, entertained and inspired. They showed me a vision of what life could be like — of what I could be, and do, and achieve.

Plenty of magazines do this to this day, the “Friend” among them.

So why do others pursue a different course, offering their readers the chance to feel better about themselves at the expense of others?

The answer, I am sorry to say, is simple. Publishing is big business, and companies publish content that their audience wants to read.

Magazines packed with salacious and unkind celebrity gossip sell, and in big numbers.

If people didn’t buy them, they wouldn’t exist. It really is as simple as that.

Speaking as someone who loves magazines, the current situation saddens me.

But as consumers, we all have it in our power to make a difference. Choose a magazine that chimes with your values, and makes you feel happy, or inspired, or informed.

Of course, I hope that magazine is the “Friend”!

For more from Angela, read her Editor’s Diary here.

Angela Gilchrist

Angela is Former Editor-in-Chief of “The People’s Friend” magazine. Her passions include cats, Highland ponies, good books, vegetarian food and long walks in the Scottish countryside. Her favourite place to get away from it all is the magical Isle of Skye.