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Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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People Magazine is one of the great successes in magazine publishing history. Combining both celebrity news and coverage about so-called "ordinary" people with extraordinary stories to tell has made People magazine a mainstay on coffee tables and bathroom reading racks for over 30 years. Despite many pretenders, People continues to hold the top spot among pop-culture weeklies.

A People's History

The original inspiration for People magazine was the "people page" located in the back of every month's Time magazine. Prior to People, there were no celebrity profile television shows or well-written "fluff" magazines on the market. The editors of People magazine seemed to anticipate with jaw dropping clarity the upcoming wave of American obsession with celebrity culture and human interest stories. While there were, of course, other popular celebrity coverage magazines already on the stands, two of the powerhouses of the time, Look and Life, featured long, in depth articles. The Time publishers who were in charge of determining the new magazine's style decided to go in a completely different direction, and feature articles that would take average readers no longer than five minutes to complete, written in a breezy, conversational style.

In 1974, the very first issue was released, with Mia Farrow on the cover, done up in her winsome best as Daisy Gatbsy from the eagerly awaited film release of "The Great Gatsby." But a quick look at the cover told readers that this magazine was not just celebrity dish. There were articles on celebrities, yes, like Richard Petty (the famous race car driver), Gloria Vanderbilt (her fourth marriage), and the music legacy of Jim Croce. But there were also articles about the Hearst family and how they were coping with the nightmare of Patricia's kidnapping, Marina Oswald (the widow of the man accused of shooting JFK who was himself murdered on live television) and her search for peace with herself, and an article on the wives of Vietnam MIAs, who refused to take "We don't know where they are" for an answer. In a time when the American media was overwhelmed with stories about Nixon's upcoming resignation and the failure in Vietnam, stories of courage, resilience, and pluck struck a powerful chord within American readers.

Though day-to-day this magazine is most well known for its Best Dressed, 50 Most Fascinating, 50 Most Beautiful, and Sexiest Man of the Year issues, People always steps up in time of crisis, both national, international, and in many cases, personal. Most other celebrity magazines have staffs that operate strictly out of Los Angeles and New York. People, on the other hand, sends bands of reporters out into the country to find stories of courage, hope, bravery, and inspiration, wherever they are found. In the end, it's this personal reporting style that keeps People ahead of the pack, by providing "these guys look good" articles next to "these guys do good" stories.

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