Strategies for Evaluating a Periodical
To learn more about the publisher of a periodical, take a moment to skim through it and note the following:
- Editorials - An editorial sets forth views held by the editors and publishers of a particular magazine and they make no pretense of being impartial. Often, they are located in the front section and, since the author's names are on the masthead, near the table of contents, they may not even be signed. If you find an editorial commenting on an issue with which you are familiar, you may discover the bias of the magazine's publisher.
- Featured Columnists - Generally, though not always, the job of a columnist depends on his or her ability to voice opinions congenial to those held by the magazine's editors and publishers. When a dissenting columnist is hired, it is to provide an opposing view. Examining a magazine's feature columns, and the authors who write them, will provide you with valuable insight regarding a publisher's biases and sense of fair play.
- Lead Stories - The lead story in a magazine is usually the one placed most prominently in a given issue and its cover will often reflect the particular slant a publisher favors. Skimming the first and last few paragraph of a lead story will often reveal the writer's overall message. You can then make a decision regarding whether or not to read the entire article.
- Letters to the Editor - The level of education and intelligence of a magazine's readers can often be deduced by the letters written to its editor, but the political positions of the magazine's publisher are not always decipherable from them, since many, such as Time, strive to offer space for the airing of a diversity of opinions.
- Advertisements - Ads are an excellent guide to a magazine's audience. To whom are its editors trying to appeal? The many ads for office copiers, delivery services, hotels, and corporations in Newsweek, for instance, reveal that the magazine's appeal is to well-educated professionals.