TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Life Magazine Going Out of Business, But Staying Online

Re: Life Magazine Going Out of Business, But Staying Online
26 Mar 2007 13:57:55 -0700

On Mar 26, 2:58 pm, Reuters News Wire <>

> Time Inc. said on Monday it would stop publishing Life, the iconic
> photography magazine that has been a weekly newspaper insert since
> 2004.

This is a bit misleading. The current "Life magazine" is a freebie
newspaper extra and it is just a few pages. It is a far, far, cry
from the classic Life magazine of the past. Has a cute picture

> Time will make Life's collection of 10 million images available online,
> with "the most important collection of imagery covering the events and
> people of the 20th century" available for free for personal use, it said.
> The public has never seen more than 97 percent of the collection,
> which includes pictures by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White
> and Gordon Parks, Time said.

The quality of their picture library is not exaggerated, it is
absolutely superb. Their photographers were the best of the craft.
However, because of limits of cameras and film in that day, most
pictures were carefully posed. What the photographer chose to pose
and what the editors chose to print could seriously affect the reality
of the original subject matter. And of course not all pictures could
be a dramatic image against a rich sky; some were almost plain "ID
card" pictures.

The head of Time-Life publishing was Henry Luce. I give him much
credit for bringing Time, Life, and Fortune magazines out. However,
Luce held rather strong opinions and some may have filtered through
his publications. Plus, I think he was a bit of an arrogant tyrant.

As I understand it, Luce was a member of the "China Lobby", a group of
prominent US citizens who urged very strong ties and support for China
in the 1930s and 1940s. The problem was that the Chinese govt under
Chiang Kai Shek was not very good nor popular in China. The US put a
lot of resources into proping up his govt during WW II and afterwards
and didn't get much back for it. Because of poor internal support, it
was relatively easy for Mao and the Communists to overthrow Chiang and
take over. The China Lobby was furious that this happened and blamed
the Democrats in power (the Truman Adm and Democrats in congress).
But there was nothing the US could've done to stop the takeover, China
was a real mess.

Sadly, IMHO, this set a bad precedent. The call "who lost China?"
made subsequent politicians fearful of another such debacle and helped
pave the way for the US disaster in Vietnam.

There is always reminising about Life magazine and how "great" it was.
It was a good and interesting magazine. But it was not totally
highbrow either. While it of course included serious news features
each week, it also always included photos of undignifed circus or
oddball people and places, fashion, considerable entertainment news,
and attractive young women*. Much of what is in today's People
magazine would've been in Life years ago.

(Into the 1970s serious in-house corporate newsletters often had a
pretty young secretary on the cover.)

At times like this there is often handwringing how no one reads
anymore. But that's only half true. Sure, back then (1940s, 1950s)
people did read a lot more. But if you look closely at photos of
newstands of that era, you'll see that serious publications are in a
corner, while the bulk of the newstand has low-class tabloid "pulp"
publications. Comic books, cheap Westerns, detective stories with
plenty of gore, Hollywood gossip, etc., filled the bulk of yesterday's
newstand. Publishing companies mass produced this stuff. The
equivalent today is the numerous tabloid and gossip TV shows, both
broadcast and cable. Indeed, even serious broadside newspapers back
then often covered crime and scandal in grisly detail.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Does anyone remember the competitor to
> Life Magazine called 'Look Magazine'; also a popular weekly print
> journal with many pictures, etc. It has been out of business since
> sometime in the 1970s also. PAT]

Yes. I forgot who published LOOK, it was basically a copy of Life.
It had top notch photographers, too.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: There is a sort of corny joke I will
share with you: A rather noted Chinese spokesperson/diplomat by the
name of Singmon Ree was employed for a long time -- many years -- by
the Time, Inc. conglomerate as a writer/columnist, specifically for
Life Magazine. This goes back to when Time, Inc. had its twin towers
in New York City. Singmon was out walking around one day, when his
presence was needed by Mr. Luce, who sent several people from his
staff out to look for him. Luce became angrier and angrier not being
able to find him, but eventually they did and the first words from the
mouth of the staff person who found him was "Ahh ... Mister Ree of
Life at last I found you!" PAT]

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