Ms. Editor in Chief resigns; magazine in trouble?


According to the New York Observer, tensions between Ms. Editor in Chief Elaine Lafferty and the magazine’s owner and publisher, the Feminist Majority Foundation, led to Lafferty’s recent resignation. Hmm…
Lafferty announces her resignation in the latest issue of Ms., due to hit newsstands this week, saying “in the last two years, I believe Ms. has been lively, provocative, thoughtful, and a fierce feminist example of advocacy journalism at its best…I wish the magazine’s owners all the best as they move forward with the kind of publication they envision.”
President of Feminist Majority Eleanor Smeal said of the resignation, “She resigned and that’s where it is. Change is constant and we know that, and we thought it had to happen at this stage, and we’re now onto another stage.” Sounds like she’s real broken up.
Apparently the main dispute was over control over content and the overall vision of the magazine. Lafferty said that the Feminist Majority Foundation “did not suggest any particular demographic or vision, other than very political and very narrow in their definition of a feminist… My vision of Ms. was that it would be a thinking woman’s magazine—a feminist magazine for sure, but my vision of feminism is a big…As the original Ms. was; they didn’t check membership cards at the door. I don’t believe in dogma, in exclusion or rhetoric. I thought it could be a magazine that invites women into the conversation about how we live today.” Wow…
Infighting and politics is certainly nothing new over at Ms.; they’ve gone through numerous owners, publishers and editors. But this recent debacle brings up an important question: can an activist organization with a specific political strategy successfully manage a magazine? Now, clearly Ms. is a feminist publication with a strategy of its own, but does that mean that it should compromise editorial control for (perhaps) more limited organizational goals? Any thoughts?
Definitely check out the whole piece, it gives an interesting inside look at this recent controversy, as well as some background on the mag that you may not have heard before.

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2 Comments

  1. Thomas
    Posted March 30, 2005 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    A true “house organ” publication usually languishes in irrelevance, read only by the faithful. Getting mindshare in the public square requires something of a broader appeal.

  2. Posted March 30, 2005 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Having met Ellie quite a few times, I’d have to say that she’s a brash woman. So her distance in the piece is pure Ellie. Much like my potty mouth is pure Roni. That said, when FMF bought Ms. I was happy & concerned. Concerned that Ms. would turn into just a FMF newsletter, spouting it’s views and focusing on just it’s topics. IIRC, in the first few issues, there was a lot of focus on Afghan women – ok for a reason – but it was too close to the FMF line. Now we read that Elaine’s view of feminism clashed with Ellie’s – FMF’s – view of feminism.
    Besides buying the magazine ourselves, what should we be doing to ensure that Ms. is reflective of a larger view of feminsim? If that’s what we each want. It’s what I want.
    I don’t want to pick sides in this, especially without all the facts. But perhaps a few supportive letters to the editor are in order.

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