Each month, a glossy, plastic-wrapped issue of Harper’s Bazaar arrives, curved ever so gently to fit into the narrow mailbox in my apartment building’s lobby. I leave it on my desk for a few days, still wrapped, to savor the newness of it, to admire it until I have a slot of time suitable enough to dedicate to the transformative journey of flipping through it. I relish each page, pausing to examine advertisements and earmarking spreads that inspire me. Reading the magazine is something that, for the most part, I greatly enjoy. (I could do without the Terry Richardson-lensed editorials, which are predictably boring and oversexed in a way that seems utterly passe.)
So naturally, I followed Harper’s Bazaar on Facebook, hoping to pepper in chic imagery, wise words, and beauty tips between hard-copied issues. But, I soon found out that the online incarnation is a steady stream of junior junk that is more worthy of a supermarket aisle than a red carpet - updates on celebrities, gossip, and tips to lose weight (without even trying!). With content online, and especially on social media, so radically different than in the magazine, I not only couldn't relate, I just didn't care; Mostly, a post from Harper’s Bazaar appearing on my Facebook feed is met with an eyeroll and a rapid flick of my thumb as I quickly scroll down, eradicating it from view.
Invariably, each post includes at least one word in all CAPS - perhaps at the suggestion of some misguided but well-meaning, middle-aged social media “expert”. Most posts claim to bear breaking news about the latest hot celebrity of the moment. (Read: flash-in-the-pan-hot, not to be confused with “timeless” or “relevant”-hot.)
At the time I researched this piece, I examined posts going back twelve hours, and what I found was less than encouraging for the state of publishing - and, dare I say, woman-kind. What do I mean by that? Take a look at the breakdown of topics, below:
11 posts about Hair, Hollywood Starlets, and the hair of Hollywood Starlets
6 posts about dieting, weight loss, curbing appetite
4 posts about the Kardashians / Jenners
2 posts about models
1 post about anti-aging
1 post about Amal Clooney's clever, but over-reported courtroom comeback
The bottom line? There are only so many times I can read posts like “You’ll never BELIEVE who just landed a MAJOR campaign” or “HUGE news for Kendall Jenner!”; headlines designed using the basest of knowledge about consumer behavior, and designed purely to generate clicks, the staggering numbers of which will likely then be presented to advertisers as incentive to purchase more ad space.
And I, for one, don’t want to be used like that.
As an example, here’s the title for an article from yesterday:
"Brad Pitt In Talks To Star in Angelina Jolie's Next Film: The actor may star in his wife's next project, 'Africa’. "
Even worse: The title tag, or the page’s title that is visible on the tab, is completely devoid of the speculation that such an unverified piece should have, brazenly declaring the affirmative “Brad Pitt To Star in Angelina’s ‘Africa’ Film.”
It’s meaningless reporting - wake me up when something does happen, not when an actor may star in his wife's movie. (Many commenters of the mag’s Facebook page echo the same frustration.) It's also irresponsible journalism. It's seems that online, Harper’s is foregoing journalistic integrity and resorting to speculative sensationalism in favor of SEO, and having one of the earliest scoops on developing (read: undeveloped) stories.
Other posts that claim to have “MAJOR” news or that brazenly declare “HUGE congratulations are in order” link to articles on the magazine’s site with titles like “Lady Gaga and Taylor Kinney Reportedly Planning a Summer Wedding” or “Are Kendall & Kylie Jenner Designing for TopShop?” (Spoiler alert: Possibly? No?)
After clicking one such link with an image of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, I quickly learned that there were no less than four posts over the course of nearly a year, linked from Facebook, with headlines to the effect of “Johnny Depp and Amber Heard to Marry This Weekend” or that the celeb duo “Secretly Wed Last Weekend”. So far, there's been little to no truth in any of them.
Click bait is a reality of modern media geared towards young people - particularly young women - and for the most part, sites like Refinery29, StyleCaster, and Nylon use it to build suspense and link to content that is relevant to their readers. But a bait-and-switch, or the promise of an article the facts of which are not yet confirmed is so low that not even TMZ practices it - I checked.
Perhaps one of the most gnawing frustrations I have with Harper’s shoddy content of late is this:
I’m a writer.
Having a job writing for a magazine - or the website version of a magazine - of Harper’s Bazaar’s prestige and cultural and historical significance is one of the holy grails of fashion journalism. I’d be thrilled to one day have the chance to write for Harper’s - it had been a dream of mine since I was thirteen, devouring my first issues on the canopy bed in my wisteria-purple bedroom. But I never could have predicted that over a decade later in 2015, part of landing a job there could mean having to write garbage articles like “How To Sculpt Your ‘Lady V’ A La Kendal Jenner” for Facebook clicks.
Why has HarpersBazaar.com, and it’s Facebook page, become a dumping ground for celeb gossip and weight-loss tips? And will the integrity of the actual glossy soon be negatively affected, as well?
On the magazine’s profile page, the short description reads as follows:
America's first fashion magazine, Harper's Bazaar has showcased the visions of legendary editors, photographers and stylists since 1867.
If Harper’s Bazaar ever gets back to its roots online, I will certainly click that “Like” button once again. Until then, I’ll be getting my fashion news elsewhere. Or writing it myself.
A version of this post originally appeared on scorpiondisco