Tuesday, September 8, 2009

`Reader's Digest''s Hidden History--Part 9

(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its 2011 bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest was owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 8 of article).

According to the book Little Wonder by John Bainbridge, the “transformation of the Reader’s Digest into something other than a digest began in the early 1930s.” The magazine began to hire writers directly to produce articles for Reader’s Digest to reprint—after Reader’s Digest first “planted” these same articles in other magazines. Theirs Was The Kingdom by John Heidenry recalled: “The Digest…subsidized original articles in its client magazines” like Harper’s and the Atlantic Monthly, but “nowhere in those magazines, were readers given notice that articles purporting to be original with the respective editor of each publication were, in fact, either original with the Digest or paid for with Digest money.” According to Little Wonder:

“In the five years from 1939 through 1943, the Digest planted articles in more than 60 publications…Of 47 articles reprinted from Harper’s, eight were Digest plants; of 39 furnished by the Atlantic Monthly, eight were plants;…of eight taken from The Nation, five were plants; of 26 credited to the New Republic, eight were plants and 13 others were on the Digest’s presses before the New Republic appeared on the stands with them…The Digest gave Commonwealth credit for nine reprinted articles; all were plants…”

By 1962, according to Theirs Was The Kingdom, “articles planted in other magazines for reprinting later in the Digest now constituted 70 percent of every issue in the U.S. edition.” Its policy of subsidizing and planting articles in other magazines before re-printing them in Reader’s Digest “gave the Digest power to propagandize its right-wing political views across a broad spectrum of the periodical press,” according to a reference book titled The Magazine In America. (end of part 9)

(Downtown 10/27/93)

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