Writer cites health coverage in women’s magazines

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Sheila Weller, writing for The Huffington Post, has a bone to pick with Caroline Kennedy over a disparaging comment she made about “women’s magazines.”

Weller specifically cites health as being an issue that has gotten cutting-edge coverage in women’s magazines, pointing to Self magazine’s coverage of breast cancer, obesity and “the impact of Bush’s funding cuts to international health clinics that supported abortion.”

In fact, Self has won several Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism over the past several years for its coverage of sperm banks, chiropractic neck adjustment and health care providers declining to provide care because of doctors’ personal beliefs.

Weller also mentions articles in Glamour, including a piece about addiction to Paxil; one that looked at how local, state and federal policies were affecting women’s health care; how the military first accepted Plan B and then withdrew it; and contraceptive equity in insurance coverage.

In the Fall 2007 issue of HealthBeat, Traci Angel wrote about an analysis of how 44 stories were framed in 10 women’s magazines. The researcher, Barbara Barnett of the University of Kansas, found that articles can provide valuable information overlooked by the mainstream press. But, she said, the coverage women receive from them often focus on superficial topics and reinforce women stereotypes as caregivers, she says. As far as health coverage in such magazines, “She concluded that health stories in these publications motivated women to keep well so they could tend to their families.”

What do you think? Are so-called “women’s magazines” a good source of information about health?

2 thoughts on “Writer cites health coverage in women’s magazines

  1. Maryn McKenna

    AS a writer for SELF – but not the author of any of the stories linked above – I have to speak up for their coverage. I’ve been doing stories for them since 2006 and have been impressed by their seriousness of purpose and commitment to accuracy. They have a ferocious team of fact-checkers and researchers who are willing to go deep into the medical literature. My most recent story for them wandered, in its later drafts, into the tangles of immunology; I was resisting being technical, thinking that their audience wouldn’t go for it, and my editor there said very firmly: “We love this stuff. Don’t be afraid of the science.” Which, I have to say, I can’t ever remember a newspaper editor saying.

  2. Barbara Burgower Hordern

    I have written health stories for Ladies Home Journal, First for Women, Women’s World, and Working Woman, and all had standards as high as Newsweek. The only one that dummed the story down at all was Woman’s World, and they still got the facts right. I had a pediatrician who warned me against getting medical information from women’s magazines. When he told me to introduce cow’s milk to my son at 7 months, I fired him. Best move I ever made!

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