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African American Women's Health Issues Missing From Magazines

Essence Magazine
Jill Scott on the cover of the May 2010 issue of Essence.

Magazines have long been a primary source for entertainment and news. But as KU assistant professor Crystal Lumpkins points out, magazines are also crucial in providing women with tips and awareness on health issues.

Lumpkins was part of a team of journalism professors that examined four women’s magazines (Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Ms. and Essence) and their attention paid to health concerns among African American women. More than 130 articles were used in the study, and what Lumpkins found was that many of today’s popular women magazines routinely failed to discuss issues concerning African American women.

Spirituality and AIDS issues are two of several topics Lumpkins believes need more attention in general readership magazines. She talked with Susan Wilson about the critical role magazines play in driving the discussion of health issues.

Interview Highlights

“Magazines are one of the leading information sources for women because they are entertaining. They provide information. So magazines are well positioned as a vehicle that journalists can use to get that word out there.”

“I feel as a journalist, that we have the responsibility of reporting those things that are out there.”

“Health is important. For goodness sakes, we just went through this whole health care debate. I would say that people are very conscious of their health and it would be well worth advertisers and whoever is supporting that magazine to invest in that because that’s something people are going to buy in to.”

“I feel that these mainstream magazines have a social responsibility, essentially. So if the problem persists, not just African Americans but Hispanics or whoever else is suffering from these different diseases or cancers—just think about that. That translates into more cost.”

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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