Not your mother's Good Housekeeping

A powerful U.K. editor says magazines need more diversity -- and sex toys.

Published January 24, 2006 3:27PM (EST)

Check out this inspiring profile in the Guardian of Lindsay Nicholson, editor in chief of British Good Housekeeping and newly appointed editorial director of the National Magazine Co. According to the Guardian, over the past seven years Nicholson has overseen a "quiet revolution" at the 83-year-old magazine "once dismissed as an anachronism in a post-feminist era."

One of Nicholson's revolutionary tactics was to use the fabled GH Institute, a panel of consumers who test products for the magazine, to evaluate sex toys. (Nice work if you can get it.) Nicholson is also an unabashed booster of older women. She recently scrapped a cover photo of a 20-something model and replaced it with one of 67-year-old Jane Fonda. Focusing on women over 40 will be one of her main goals when she takes over the National Magazine Co., which owns a range of magazines from Country Living to Cosmopolitan.

"So many publishers seem to think women fall off the edge of a cliff when they reach the age of 40," Nicholson told the Guardian, "and I find that strange." Nicholson is also outspoken about the lack of ethnic and racial diversity in the pages of the U.K.'s glossies.

"We've got around 3,000 newsstand titles, many of which present one world view  There's so much that's really not being reflected in mainstream magazines -- and if I read in one more magazine that women are obsessed with shoes I think I will be sick."

Nicholson is also pushing for an end to the practice of making aspiring journalists take unpaid internships, which is also common in the United States. She says this has contributed to the lack of diversity in magazines because middle-class people are the only ones who can afford to work for nothing. "The industry is hideously white, to coin a phrase, and that is reflected in the magazines we produce," Nicholson said. "If you landed from Mars and the first thing you saw was a magazine you would think everyone was white, attractive and under 40."

What Nicholson is describing sounds familiar, doesnt it? American editors might want to take a page from the playbook of their colleague across the pond.

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

MORE FROM Lori Leibovich

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