By Denise Tessier
It didn’t seem fair.
Just as the Albuquerque Journal started putting its in-house inserts on glossy paper (see Saturday’s Fit and the March 3 debut of Live Well) the newspaper moved its longest-running in-house magazine, Sage, online. Would Sage not get to go glossy?
On top of that, it didn’t seem like lucky timing to hide Sage, celebrating its 23rd year, just as women’s news was really heating up.
Yet if you think about it, it was brilliant timing, because women’s news was really heating up.
Where better than online to comment and vent about Rush Limbaugh’s slander of Sandra Fluke, the controversy on women’s access to insurance-provided contraception, the legislatures (West Virginia, Texas, and other states) mandating invasive procedures, and New Mexico U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson’s support of the controversial Blunt amendment?
And all this was after the Komen vs. Planned Parenthood blitz.
But the reality is, Sage was just getting started online, and kind of missed the boat on that particular crazy women’s news cycle.
The good news for Sage, though, is that it’s now ready for the next, or the continuum of the wave of women’s news, which shows no signs of letting up in this political year.
Since the Journal began promoting the site weekly in the print edition, tag subjects on Sage online stories are increasingly topical. Fashion and retailers like Sears and Kmart have large-font prominence on the site’s topic box, but children, women’s health, contraception, and the pill are holding their own.
And it turns out – if you had read Sage editor Carolyn Flynn’s letter on the front page of the Living section (March 4) all the way through, you would have learned that Sage still will be printed on paper, but only quarterly, updated online in-between, with the next print edition coming out the first Saturday in May.
“Get your fix on new website,” the letter was headlined, which explained the absence:
Instead, we’d like to steer you to the new, improved Sage website – which provides information about women more frequently than ever. . . .
The idea is not just to tide you over until the next print version of Sage comes out. The idea is to build a better magazine that you can find on many platforms, reaching you right where you are.
The site wants readers to take part by commenting directly on the website or by joining a Facebook or LinkedIn community group.
The potential for this online magazine is great, as exemplified by the sheer volume of online stories related to women at the time online Sage was launched. And the need is still there.
As Linda Greenhouse’s “Accidental Heroines” piece in the New York Times (March 7) noted:
Beyond slogans, we need a serious conversation about how women live their lives and about how women’s ability to control their fertility contributes to the welfare of American families. . . .
If you think my concern is unfounded, here’s a little experiment. Go to YouTube and listen to Loretta Lynn sing “The Pill.” The song was a country music hit for her back in 1975, a feminist anthem in its message if not in its rustic imagery:
You wined me and dined me when I was your girl
Promised if I’d be your wife you’d show me the world
But all I’ve seen of this old world is a bed and a doctor bill
I’m tearing down your brooder house ‘cause now I’ve got the pill.
Her piece no doubt drove tons of traffic to YouTube to hear “The Pill,” which is credited with driving women to take advantage of the then-fairly new form of contraception.
(One commenter on the YouTube site wrote: “In an interview years later, Loretta Lynn said that many physicians told her that this song did more to promote the availability of birth control in rural areas than all the literature they’d distributed.”)
Greenhouse wryly urged readers to:
Listen, and ask yourself whether this song would get air time on a commercial station today. I wouldn’t bet on it.
In March, when this story ran, Sage was just starting to advertise the new site.
One can still see the tabloid version of February’s wedding issue, and how it was laid out with ads, etc., by clicking on the e-paper version of the February Sage. But it’s a small screen (hard to see without zooming in little portions at a time). Better to click on a tab on the Sage website,“As Seen in Sage” which picks up the wedding photos and other articles and gives them their own space, so they can be better seen, even in a slide show.
The strength of the Sage website is that it carries more than the print version (just like the Fit web site and its Live Well counterpart), including wire and women’s news-related stories that ran in the print edition of the Journal.
One such website story is “Cost dictates birth control methods,” which originally ran March 26 on C1, the cover of the printed Health section of the Albuquerque Journal. During a site visit while writing this, it was the only story that had a comment.
For comparison, on March 21, the Journal’s printed Letters page was filled with missives by 12 different writers discussing contraception, women’s rights, church doctrine and government’s role.
But in addition to the website, Sage readers can comment on Facebook or via LinkedIn, and according to Flynn’s weekly Sage promo letter on the Living section cover March 18, both of those pages “have dialogues going about the Violence Against Women Act and the Women in the World Summit.”
Readers who don’t use those networking sites won’t be part of the “conversation,” but that’s probably not the demographic online Sage is aiming to reach.
The Journal continues its transition in the digital age, and Sage has transitioned in time to take advantage of this reported trend: mobile devices are spurring more news consumption.
And after all, it was “networked feminism” that got advertisers to turn away from Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps Sage can tap into that networking energy and engage local readers.