American Vogue needs to revert to its high-fashion roots

The appeal of working in print publishing has diminished with the digitalization of media.

Print is not dead. Rather, it is in the midst of slowly and painfully succumbing to the digitalization of media, especially where magazines are concerned. The New York Times reported that Condé Nast, one of the biggest magazine publishing companies, lost more than $120 million in 2017 and subsequently decided to sell three of its publications. The industry is not only deteriorating financially, however. Magazines, or, rather, one specific magazine of interest, seem to have detected that they are not as coveted as they used to be. As a result, they have turned to exploiting their platforms by posting clickbait content and relinquishing creative control to the unqualified.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. It’s because I grew up watching timid young women in movies like “The Devil Wears Prada” and “13 Going on 30” transform into sophisticated fashion magazine professionals. It’s because I wanted that life for myself. It’s because that life no longer exists. Girls like me used to have something to look up to. That shining beacon of hope came in the form of the all-powerful American Vogue magazine. Not just the magazine itself, but what it represented — the potential of a financially stable career with plenty of room for creative expression, traveling and social networking.

Today, the influence of the editor position is gone. One no longer has to be an industry insider to immediately receive information on all the latest trends, collections and scandals. If anything, reporters and editors are now expected to be like every other self-proclaimed “influencer.” As noted in an article on fashionista.com, journalists applying for jobs at fashion magazines feel the pressure to have large social media followings and connections with brands that could benefit the publication. Since most editing job salaries are no longer substantial, trained media professionals are resorting to posting the same content as your average Instagram model in hopes of scoring lucrative brand deals. If only the selling out stopped at their personal accounts.

Vogue itself is trying to keep its readership afloat by publishing coverage that I would normally expect to see on TMZ. Rather than producing interesting think pieces or reflective brand reviews, like the ones often featured on The Business of Fashion or The Cut, the alleged “fashion bible” feels compelled to update me every time Kylie Jenner changes her hair color or Meghan Markle wears a new coat. In a YouTube video detailing how to get a job at British Vogue, digital editors cheer when their website hits increase after one of them tweets about Gigi Hadid. At least across the Atlantic, new editor-in-chief Edward Enninful has successfully committed to diversifying the types of people featured in the publication. At home, the covers and print content are just as stale as the online subject matter.

What definitively signified the defeat of American Vogue was the 2018 September issue. The most important volume of the year might as well have been scrapped, as editor-in-chief Anna Wintour gave all creative freedom to cover star Beyoncé. Because her managerial style is notoriously hands-on, completely handing over control to Beyoncé was an appalling display of indifference. This is the woman whose autocratic style inspired “The Devil Wears Prada,” one of the most iconic film adaptations in our great nation’s history. Her indifference also prompted retirement rumors, which Wintour (unfortunately) denied.

At the end of the day, there isn’t much magazines can do to combat the extinction of print publishing and long-form journalism, but I still hold American Vogue to a higher standard than any other publication, especially when there is so much room for improvement in every medium. Makeup tutorials and trashy celebrity gossip may garner attention, but that shouldn’t be a reason to tarnish the integrity of the entire magazine and its staff.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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