I can’t quite believe CLEO magazine is gone.
Rumours swirled last week that the iconic title was getting the chop. While a spokesman swore it wasn’t true, it was pretty hard to ignore the cold, hard facts.
Circulation was scarily low – women in their late teens and early 20s don’t read magazines the way they once did. They’re on Snap Chat and Instagram and whatever else they do on social media.
The writing was on the wall when CLEO’s website closed down before Christmas. How can a magazine have a future without a website?
Yesterday, Bauer confirmed media’s worst kept secret: it was shutting CLEO down.
It’s the end of an era. CLEO was so much more than a magazine about sex and shoes. It started out – waaaay back in the ’70s – as something close to revolutionary.
As writes at The Conversation:
Cleo was a translating machine. The women’s liberation movement was mainly in the hands of educated middle class women who used the language of revolution. Most ordinary women found this terrifying.
It took a magazine like Cleo, with an inspired and inspiring editor, a supportive mainstream publisher in Kerry Packer, a talented staff who tapped into the young and liberatory zeitgeist of the seventies, to take the threat out of feminism and sex, and package politics in the pleasurable pages of a glossy magazine.
I loved watching the fictionalised version of its conception in Paper Giants – one of my favourite TV shows EVER.
Working on young women’s mags was something close to revolutionary for me too. It’s the moment my own career got interesting.
While I started out at the Newcastle Herald, magazines were my dream. Scoring a job at Cosmopolitan magazine in the early 90s blew my mind.
Nine amazing years followed as I worked my way up to deputy editor. My specialty was interviewing celebrities – everyone from Alyssa Milano to Shannen Doherty to Salma Hayek to Kylie Minogue to Portia Di Rossi to Christina Applegate.
And I often conned the editor into letting me fly to Los Angeles to meet them!
I also got to do crazy things like report on the Mardi Gras on the back of a motorcycle while clutching a Dyke on a Bike.
But, eventually, it was time to move on. I headed to Singapore to edit the local edition of CLEO. That was bulk fun, though it started out pretty scarily, with my first issue being almost banned for including the coverline “Blow like a pro” (oral sex tips from a prostitute).
The Singaporean government is a little/lot on the conservative side and totally FREAKED. (There was also the unfortunate time we had to pulp an issue because it included a penis ruler that announced Asian penises were the smallest. WHAT was I thinking?)
I loved that job and it loved me back. I doubled the circulation within a year with a combination of titillation, fun and local colour.
It didn’t hurt that I had the most wonderful, passionate staff and an incredibly talented deputy editor called Corinne Ng.
Around 18 months into the job I was asked to help launch Singapore Harper’s Bazaar. I’m not really a high-fashion gal, but I AM very adaptable, so I got to work.
The morning after the launch party, I was offered the job as editor of Woman’s Day in Australia.
It was a tough decision. I’d had two wonderful years in Singapore – the food, the parties, the friendships, the designer freebies – but being offered the job as editor of Woman’s Day was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.
At the same time, I was nervous. Editing a title that big never ends well. When things get wobbly, there’s usually someone lurking behind your back with a big knife.
But that’s a story for another day.
Franki Hobson – the former editor of Cosmo Pregnancy- is one of the most creative, positive journalists I know. She’s written a blog about the pain of being the editor of a title that closes and offers hope to those facing redundancy.
“I feel for the staff at Cleo. They have worked tirelessly for something they believe in. They wanted to give a voice to Australian women with limited staff, limited budget and maximum red tape. The speculation of the magazine closing will be devastating news for them. It’s awful to tread water tirelessly for something you truly believe in. To go beyond the call of duty and pull out all the stops in their own time and be the last to know. But if I have one word of advice it’s this: your passion and dedication to story-telling, journalism, fashion and beauty advice or entertainment transcends and translates to any medium. Be creative. Be passionate. Do what you love and pursue your dreams to reach Australian women in the way you know how. You will land on your feet.”
I often wonder what the next decade holds for me in journalism? I know I can edit something big and get results. I also know I’m happy doing something small … as long as that gets results too.
I’m addicted to the “crack” that is sales (in print) or clicks (in digital).
I love seeing a cover story or a digital post go berserk.
I’m not sure I could handle a job that didn’t include those giddy pleasures.
So what does the future hold? The universe – as I’ve often gratefully noted – keeps her eye on me.
Two years ago there’s NO WAY I’d have believed what my life would look like now.
I was in a baaaaaad place back then – frantically trying to hold the shreds of my marriage together.
Today is a very different, lovely story.
So I’m with Franki.
If we’re creative and passionate, we WILL land on our feet.
Song of the day: Cold Chisel “Ita”