SPIN SISTERS is a book women and men, magazine writers and readers
should read and will most definitely want to discuss. It will grab
and hold your attention if not purely to satisfy your curiosity
about a glitzy industry that touches many lives. As you might
expect from its title, SPIN SISTERS is about several women media
moguls who --- according to author Myrna Blyth --- mold and shape
the minds of unsuspecting American magazine readers and television
These industry "sisters" --- namely Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and
Barbara Walters --- spin news to convince women that they are
over-stressed, overworked and underappreciated, according to Blyth.
Whether it's soft-pedaling questions to like-minded liberals or
ignoring news that might not fit into their tilted field of vision,
media queens are selling ideas, she says.
"…Nowadays the 'political information' you get, girlfriend to
girlfriend, often has a definite 'one-perspective' liberal tilt.
Believe me, I know the formula: disease and diets, sob stories and
social issues, and stress, stress, stress. And I know the impact
such a formula can have on one's ideas and emotions."
In essence, Blyth says, female media moguls have scared or
convinced American women --- who enjoy more freedoms professionally
and personally than ever before --- that they should feel sorry for
themselves. And readers gobble it up.
"They are the media's Nay Nay Sisterhood who feel sorry for you
because they feel so darn sorry for themselves," writes
The meat of this story will come as no surprise to readers, but the
author's candor might. Blyth, a tenured magazine editor and
journalist, is at times downright caustic as she unveils the
not-so-pretty side of her colleagues (in crime). And while she
admits to employing some of their techniques to grab readers and
hold a magazine's market share, she dishes up tasty morsels of
gossip to which most viewers and/or readers are never privy:
groveling for the "get" or acquisition of a celebrity interview,
the backbiting among media queens who American women have learned
to love --- even worse --- to trust. And there's more, much
Keep a pad and pencil handy as you read through these chapters.
You'll need it. The book is thought provoking, but I truly hope
that readers will keep a perspective on the magazine industry and
its audience. That, in fact, is the author's stated goal, though
it's buried at the very end of the book's 309 pages.
Blyth, unlike the spin sisters she writes about, is a conservative
thinker. And her fear, she says, is that women have somehow bought
into the prettily packaged stress, sex and simple recipes formula
that sells today's women's magazines. After reading the book
cover-to-cover, gasping at times at the details that I'd always
suspected but never known to be true, two questions remain: Why
after 20-some-odd years did Blyth decide to spill the beans? And
are women really this gullible?
As a writer who contributes to women's magazines, I read this book
with great interest. I not only write for women's magazines, I'm a
reader as well, a magazine junkie. I agreed with some of her
observations about ambitious women today who lament their daily
lives instead of appreciating the opportunities afforded them. I
did pause to question why there aren't more conservative viewpoints
shared or addressed in the pages of mainstream women's magazines.
And I found myself nodding while reading about the nauseating
number of references to diets and sex on the covers of
In between her jabs and barbs at the spin sisters with whom she
worked, Blyth touches on real issues for women across the world who
struggle with having it all and never quite understanding what it
is that they really want.
"How did we go from having no choices about our lives to having so
many choices that it has made some of us a little crazy --- and so
very self-involved? When did independence turn into narcissism and
At times I wonder how much media reflects society, or vice versa.
It's a discussion I have with friends of my own --- women who work
in the media as writers and editors, not as producers or
anchorwomen. I've already promised to lend them this book and look
forward to discussing it afterward.
Reviewed by Heather Grimshaw on January 23, 2011