NOW Takes on Time Magazine

by Mira Weinstein

Like thousands of feminists around the country, NOW activists were outraged at Time magazine's June 29 cover story "Is Feminism Dead?" Readers took action to counter the mainstream media's latest attempt to shut down (and shut up) the women's rights movement, inundating Time with pro-feminist letters and canceling subscriptions.

"As is so often the case, we were able to direct individual's anger into a collective campaign," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "We advanced the twin goals of pressuring the magazine to provide a more balanced view of the feminist movement and more comprehensive coverage of women's rights issues."

The National NOW Action Center sent out an e-mail to Action Alert subscribers to generate protest letters to Time, and volunteers at the Lilith Fair concerts distributed post cards for activists to fill out and return to the magazine. It was reported that the letters desk at Time received approximately 1,700 responses to the feminism story in the first two weeks  and over 1,300 of them were critical of the coverage.

Following the theory that helpful and humorous journalistic hints might be more productive than a direct attack, NOW released some "Friendly Advice" for Time. Some of them tongue-in-cheek, these  popular recommendations commented on both style and substance, urging more accurate research, broader scope of coverage, better fact checking and more consistency. (See for the full list)

Next, New York City NOW took on the magazine s decision-makers directly. Chapter president Galen Sherwin arranged a meeting with the editorial board. National NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy and Action Vice President Elizabeth Toledo joined Sherwin, Ms. magazine contributing editor Barbara Seaman and representatives from the young feminist group Third Wave at the meeting at Time's headquarters. While the group talked, activists staged a picket outside. Several passers-by joined the protest, asked for more information or cheered the picketers as they passed.

The face-to-face meeting included managing editor Walter Isaacson, managing editor Marguerite Michaels and the article's author Ginia Bellafante. In a subsequent telephone conference, Isaacson and Ireland discussed how Time could cast their news-gathering net wider to improve coverage of women and women's rights. Isaacson suggested the possibility of Ireland writing a back-page essay accurately presenting a vibrant feminist movement and  additional coverage on the new "CNN/Time Newsstand" television program. He also urged NOW to continue building relationships with Time, its editors and writers.

"We are pleased with the initial response we have received from Time editors, and activists should remain vigilant," said Ireland. "Keep your eyes open for articles in upcoming issues of the magazine and don't let Time forget that the only thing that will end feminism is equality."

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