Back in January, Off the Record polled members of the magazine world’s Seven Sisterhood, wondering if they felt compelled to apply editorial seals of approval to Hillary Clinton. Historic candidacy, first woman running for president … would they endorse? Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal and Woman’s Day—all said no.
Fast-forward to September, and the giant sucking sound of surprise Republican veep nominee Sarah Palin hoovering up TV exclusives, front-page investigative pieces and magazine covers. Would Family Circle, famous for its 1992 Barbara Bush vs. Hillary Clinton cookie recipe bake-off, be soliciting potential Second (or First!) Dude Todd Palin for a mooseburger recipe? Delving into how young Bristol is expanding her family circle? Linda Fears, the editor of the magazine, wouldn’t get on the phone to say.
What about coverage of the candidate herself?
“Yeah!” said Cindi Leive, the editor of Glamour. “God, how could you be a women’s magazine and not dip your toe into this a little bit?”
Glamour already has two Sarah stories slated for its November issue, arriving on newsstands next week: one in which Geraldine Ferraro offers advice to the candidate; the other from a friend who is close to Governor Palin. Attendant and ravenous blogging has ranged from her politics (Glamocracy) to her hairstyles (The Girls in the Beauty Dept.). “Just say the name Sarah Palin and she sets off these debates among women—about motherhood, about work, what it means to be a feminist, all these incredibly interesting, meaty things,” Ms. Leive said. “There’s a lot of love and a lot of hate, and I think that’s the definition of a great magazine topic.”
Meanwhile, over at the slightly more menopausal More: “We’ve been chasing her, and hopefully, we’ll get her for a cover at some point,” said editor Lesley Jane Seymour. “For us, it would be interesting to do her if she gets into office and get her as soon as possible, and if not, to get her a year later or something.”
Either way, Ms. Seymour suggested, Mrs. Palin is a great “get”: If the Republican ticket prevails, she’s the most powerful woman in the country, and if not, they can include her in their “Second Act” series, which focuses on working women who are reinventing their careers.
She pointed out that More had already featured Mrs. Palin last year as an up-and-rising political star (Vogue, too, had her in its February 2008 issue, suspiciously sans eyeglasses). A planned interview at the Republican National Convention fell through because of Mrs. Palin’s sudden scheduling conflicts: a missed campaigning opportunity, perhaps. “It’s my readership who is going to swing this election,” Ms. Seymour argued. “Everyone is talking about older women.”
Other magazines hedged on their Palin plans.
“We have no plans to speak with Gov. Palin before the election, but when it’s all over, maybe we’ll invite her to tour the legendary Good Housekeeping Research Institute, where she can test out the zero-degree temperatures of our climatology room,” said Good Housekeeping editor Rosemary Ellis in an e-mail. “It might be a welcome change after such a heated race.” Brrr!
Didn’t Ms. Ellis feel some imperative to order immediate coverage? “Gov. Palin is not the first female vice-presidential candidate,” she replied, dare we say a tad frostily. “If she becomes the first female vice-president, then magazine editors everywhere will be lining up to speak with her.”
Woman’s Day said their editor, Jane Chesnutt, was not available for comment.
“They’ve already closed the November issue,” wrote Alice Schneider, the magazine’s spokeswoman. “Of course if Palin becomes vp, that will be covered, as Woman’s Day always covers whatever administration is in power.”
Ladies Home Journal said it will absolutely cover Mrs. Palin—well, absolutely if she wins. And if she doesn’t? “I think it depends on what the mood of the country is and what our readers want,” said Robbie Caploe, executive editor of the magazine. “It’s not totally clear how we would handle it if she lost.”