Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
“Would Walter Cronkite Have Tweeted?” Cindi Leive ’88, Editor-In-Chief of Glamour magazine asked a large audience of families, friends, and alumni at this past Garnet Weekend. Leive gave this year’s Thomas B. McCabe Lecture on “Old Media, New Media and What You Should Know about Everything You Read.”
The McCabe lecture is an annual event that brings alumni with distinguished careers in their fields to speak on campus. In 2008, Forbes Magazine named Leive, who has held her position since 2001, the “Most Powerful U.S. Fashion Magazine Editor.” Glamour reaches more than 12 million readers a month. Leive has been awarded numerous awards for her journalism, including the White House Project EPIC award for publishing “In Search of Hope: The Global Diaries of Mariane Pearl.” She is the first female alumna to give the McCabe lecture.
Exploring the various digital media now available to journalists and their readers, Leive weighed the pros and cons of the transition from print to webpage. She states that no matter what the format, “journalism must be the pursuit of truth.”
Leive appreciates the immediacy of communication that the new age of journalism has heralded. Using Glamour.com, she and her team can now report issues that arise between the monthly newsstand issues, and get minute-by-minute feedback from readers. Leive reads every piece of mail and email that she gets from them.
At Swarthmore College, Leive was Features Editor at The Phoenix, as well as a Writing Associate, a job she calls her “first editing experience” that taught her how to “draw out what a writer wants to say.” As an undergrad, she interned at The Paris Review. One thing she doesn’t miss about the old way of doing journalism, she says, is spending hours fact checking information that she could now Google in seconds.
“It’s been thrilling to see this optimism [about digital media] and to be a part of it,” Leive said during her lecture. But what she fears, she said, is the “death of creativity”: newsrooms once buzzing with conversation falling silent as reporters hunch over their computers, newspapers dying, and websites teeming over with anonymous and unaccredited gossip.
Leive noted, “Google is the most influential editor.” It is an editor that chooses mass appeal over accuracy, the number of hits over the veracity of facts.
Yet Leive hardly fears this change, Glamour has a flourishing website, an iPhone app, a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and coming soon, a Tumblr. The print issue outsells 98 percent of magazines on the newsstand, and will be supplemented this year with three books.
“Digital is a part of it,” she said, in an interview with the Gazette, “but thinking of yourself as a brand doesn’t mean you do only the new [media]. The magazine is the mother ship; if you neglect that, the other stuff has no value.”
Leive says her favorite part of the job is hearing from readers, and listening to their feedback, on the web and in print. Earlier this year Glamour removed a feature on their website that allowed readers to upload and comment on each other’s fashion “Do’s & Donts” because readers complained that the responses directed “unwarranted hate” towards other women’s bodies. Leive personally commented on the decision from her Glamour blog, “On the C.L.”
“It was very humbling,” Leive said, about navigating the transition from old to new over the last several years. The Internet, she said, has “fabulous places” and “sleazy alleyways” just like any other place. And that the key, moving forward, is a melding of the old-school principles of objectivity and truth telling with new platforms: the variety of digital media that are available to journalists and their readers alike.