Sheila Webb, a professor in the Department of Journalism at Western Washington University, had her research article on Life magazine, "Creating Life: America’s Most Potent Editorial Force," published in the latest issue of "Journalism & Communication Monographs."
Webb's research was part of her professional leave this past year. The full text of the article is online.
The beginnings of a new media offer insight into how new forms thrive. Life is called the “biggest mass market hit in the history of publishing.” This study examines the social, technical, and cultural factors behind the first American pictorial and describes the period before Life’s 1936 launch and the decade after, the growth of visuals from 1900 to 1930, and the cultural role visuals played. By Life’s debut, the public was “visually oriented” to visuals with text, prepared to embrace a magazine based on news told via the photo-essay. The study describes how the magazine took shape, the impact of the premier issue, and the development of a visual ideology. This portrait of Life is based on primary materials, archival research, and contemporary accounts. Empirical data ground the analysis of the reasons for the eager adoption of Life and connect this success to the narrative framing in the photo-essays of middle-class and professional achievement.