Believability--a Unique Grip on Readers

Believability has another controlling effect upon GOOD HOUSEKEEPING. In many readers’ minds there is an expectation not simply that they can believe what is offered in editorial and advertising content, but that very little will even appear which does not warrant serious attention, comprehension and belief. Humor, for example, makes some of our readers vaguely nervous, like a snicker in church; and our editorial research indicates that to these most-committed readers such things as stories about celebrities are only made meaningful through our superimposition of a theme or psychological value judgment which relates the subject’s adventures to cause-and-effect experience as the reader herself has observed it.

Of course this means in turn that our editors do not regard themselves as free to utilize all the known techniques of maximum reader appeal in fullest measure, since protection of the first aspect of reader attachment has seemed to us a more important requirement than extension of the magazine’s “reach” to a larger but less committed audience.

Summing up this point: Believability gives this magazine a unique grip on readers — but a grip on fewer of them than a more casual or entertaining medium might at least try to attract.

The above is an excerpt from an internal memorandum dated March 19, 1961, from Editor Wade Nichols to the editorial and advertising staffs of Good Housekeeping. Its purpose was to restate the basic editorial platform of the magazine. Good Housekeeping feels it provides an insight, possibly of public interest, into the magazine’s continuing editorial policies and functions as interpreted by its editor.