Author Archives: Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin

About Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin is an editor, writer and perpetual storyteller with an incurable addiction to coffee, magazines, Neil Diamond and Caribbean travel. She resides in Music City USA (that's Nashville, Tenn., ya'll!), where you'll find her staking out live music, salsa dancing, scouring town for the best latte and working on her first No. 1 (book that is).


Reader’s Digest Magazine Reveals 50 Secrets of the ER

readersdigest_july2010.jpgI’ve never given much thought to emergency rooms, except during the rare and random times I’ve found myself in them. My lasting memory from those collective experiences is the waiting… and waiting and waiting. But I always figured that was part of it, so my feelings about them have always been pretty neutral. 

For many Americans, though, the ER is a very familiar place–especially for those who don’t have insurance to see a primary care physician when sickness strikes. Recognizing this, Reader’s Digest magazine seeks to uncover the mysteries of the ER in its March 2010 issue: what really goes on behind the scenes, and 50 secrets that doctors, nurses and paramedics won’t tell you. The story is part of a larger series that sheds light on the misconceptions behind some of America’s most commonly used services. Previous articles this year have included revelations on what your waiter, pharmacist and shoe salesman won’t tell you.

I scanned the cover story for the answer to my most pressing question: Why all the waiting? Turns out the average ER visit is just two hours and 40 minutes (but it seems so much longer when you’re sitting there doing nothing). Often, it’s due to a shortage of beds or the need to treat patients with more life-threatening problems first. “Waiting is good. It means you’re not going to die,” paramedic Don Lundy tells the magazine. “The person you need to feel sorry for is the one who gets rushed into the ER and treated first.”

The article covers everything from ambulance etiquette (paramedics don’t use sirens unless someone is bleeding, having chest pain or struggling to breathe) to waiting room decorum (those on the verge of vomiting get a room more quickly). Some tidbits could make or break your next ER experience: Be as descriptive as you can about medical history or prior medications–it makes a difference; be nice to the nurses–they’ll remember; and never ever lie, talk smack about your doctor or expect special treatment–unless you want a particularly painful visit (figuratively speaking, of course).  

Along with ERs, the Reader’s Digest magazine explores another mystery-shrouded industry–credit card companies–in its consumer alert section. With the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in effect, the magazine shares an in-depth examination of the loopholes credit card companies are already using to get around this law, and comprehensive tips on how consumers can keep companies accountable.

In this issue, you’ll also find illuminating portraits on Mark Harmon, the star of hit detective show “NCIS” and an actor who has managed to stay out of the harsh Hollywood spotlight, and baseball legend Willie Mays, whose story continues to intrigue and confound the American public. The magazine also leaves you with some laughs, including the world’s funniest (and most idiotic) scientific experiments. Ever considered what hurts more, getting hit over the head with a full bottle of beer or an empty one? Oh, there are studies….


Magazines Tackle the Stress Monster From Two Different Angles

ladieshomejournal_july2010.jpgBeating stress is a topic that gets covered regularly in women’s magazines–and for good reason. Most of us grapple with it at some point in the day. Whether juggling projects at work, fighting traffic on the road or trying to keep everyone happy at home, it’s easy to get overtaken by the stress monster. Like most women, I welcome any advice on how to tame it!

In March, two women’s magazines tackled the topic of stress. Ladies’ Home Journal magazine featured an article titled “Life Is Good… Don’t Miss It!” with tips on how to enjoy the blessings of the moment, while Woman’s Day magazine focused on the health side of the subject in its “Stress Less” article. Their timing is perfect. According to a recent American Psychological Association poll, Americans are more stressed out than ever. In fact, more than 80 percent of the women who were surveyed reported prolonged stress over money and the economy.

Both articles offered helpful insight and information, but as someone with tunnel vision who struggles with multitasking, I related to the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine story the most. What hooked me? Journalist Catherine Newman’s first-person description of a typical morning: Sitting at her computer, so engrossed in her virtual world that she hardly notices what’s happening in her real world–and nearly misses the chance to say goodbye to her husband as he leaves for work. As she notes, we get so busy “making connections constantly that we don’t realize how disconnected we’ve become.”

womansday_august2010.jpgNewman focuses on the principle of “mindfulness,” a Buddhist philosophy gaining popularity among doctors and therapists that teaches the joys of living in the present and keeping your eyes on the here and now. Using this as a stress-fighting weapon can lead to steadier moods, increased immune function, higher pain tolerance and improved memory and concentration in those pressure-cooker moments in life, according to clinical psychologists quoted in the article. In fact, some even recommend it over anti-anxiety medication.

So how does one learn to be mindful? The article offers a seven-step plan, encompassing everything from tangible tips like slowing down, taking deep breaths and unplugging, to secrets on how to master the more elusive stuff: living with a sense of gratitude, setting the right priorities, keeping things in perspective and doing less while getting more done.

For readers who struggle with the physical manifestations of stress (tension headaches, stomach aches and insomnia, to name a few), the “Stress Less” article in Woman’s Day magazine breaks down the effects of stress on the body and offers tips for fighting both short-term and long-term stress. It even includes yoga moves to help you mellow out! My favorite part of the article was learning about the five foods that fight stress–dark chocolate, skim milk, oatmeal, salmon and walnuts. Who knew that my addiction to Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bars could turn out to be a good thing?

The Practicality of Makeover Madness

oprah.jpgWith TV shows like TLC’s “What Not to Wear” and ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” dominating the ratings, it’s no surprise that makeover features are popular in magazines. From renovations that make your home more “eco-friendly” to style transformations that turn frazzled soccer moms into vivacious vixens, makeovers are all the rage. And some shows, like “What Not to Wear,” are even teaming up with women’s magazines to give the makeover and its lucky recipient even more exposure.

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good makeover as much as the next person. In fact, if someone knocked on my door and offered to make over my closet, kitchen, bedroom or anything, I wouldn’t stop to think before saying yes. One of my favorite recent O, The Oprah Magazine articles takes six shabby guys, nominated by their girlfriends, and gives them head-to-toe makeovers. I have a few friends who would jump at that chance!

My qualm isn’t with the makeovers themselves; it’s with the way these transformations spoil us. Sure, I would love to turn my bathroom into a spa sanctuary with relaxing cool blue walls and artsy tile on the floor. But what if your landlord, like mine, won’t let you paint? Or what if you don’t have the money to spend on new cabinet and faucet fixtures? If Southern Living magazine was redoing my bathroom I’m sure the magazine would foot the bill, but how does that help other readers who aspire to do the same? Wouldn’t it be more instructive to give me tips on renovating within my budget, go to Bed Bath & Beyond with me to shop for affordable shower curtains, and help me rearrange my towel racks and knickknacks?

Maybe along with the before and after photos and a step-by-step breakdown of hair, makeup and wardrobe tricks, makeovers could include more about the person in the chair: What does she have in her closet that she can work with? How can she build her wardrobe without breaking her budget? How much time does she have to spend on her hair, and how will this cut make styling it easier? What staple tones should she add to her makeup palette?
Take Julia Ashenhurst, a housewife who received a Ladies’ Home Journal magazine makeover in the ’50s. Though honored to be chosen, she was photographed in a dress she would never buy, makeup she never wore and a hairstyle that lasted less than a day, writes Mary Ellen Zuckerman in “A History of Popular Women’s Magazines in the United States, 1792-1995.” Julia Ashenhurst summed up her experience this way: “I cannot but question the wisdom and fairness of presenting me as the wife of a teacher and mother of four young children in clothes not my own with a face and hairdo not my own. Even my waist was not my own for I was hooked to a cinch corset which was nearly the end of me.”

Hmm. Something for magazine editors to consider?

Why Reader’s Digest Magazine Still Matters

readers-digest.jpgFor as long as I can remember, Reader’s Digest magazine has been a fixture on coffee tables in homes and businesses in the small town where I grew up. It was one of the first magazines I remember reading. (My dad kept copies in his office and my grandmother hoarded stacks of large-print vintage editions.) As a kid, I remember being entranced by one article in particular–an investigative story on the hunt for a serial killer in North Carolina. Like a motorist passing a wreck, I was horrified, but I couldn’t put it down. Truth be told, it may have been one of the first real journalistic pieces I was exposed to, so I probably have the magazine to thank for igniting my interest in the field.

If founders DeWitt Wallace and Lila Wallace were alive today, they’d likely be thrilled to know that their magazine, which launched in 1922 as a general-interest family magazine, is still a small-town staple. While recovering from shrapnel wounds received in World War I, Wallace developed the idea to clip, condense, rewrite and compile his favorite articles into a compact magazine. For rural readers–who didn’t have access to newsstands–it was a godsend, connecting them to a world outside of their towns.

Since then, Reader’s Digest magazine, which boasts a 17 million circulation worldwide and prints 50 editions in 21 languages, has thrived through many changes in the industry. Recent financial troubles faced by its parent corporation, the Reader’s Digest Association, along with an overall shakeup of the industry, have put its future in jeopardy–as detailed by this New York Times article. Yet the publication, which won last year’s National Magazine Award for general excellence, continues to be a best seller. What makes it relevant to today’s generation? Here are five things Reader’s Digest offers that you won’t find elsewhere (at least in one place!):

1. Profiles on real heroes: From average citizens risking their lives to save others to entrepreneurs with big ideas and an even bigger reach to people overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams, these pages contain everyday heroes who, in a recent issue, outnumbered celebrities 14 to 2.

2. Old-school investigative reporting: Each issue brings you answers to questions you’re dying to ask but wouldn’t dare, due to their complexity and sheer awkwardness. A recent issue, for instance, delved into everything from what your ER doctor won’t tell you to the tricks credit-card companies use to circumvent laws.

3. A breath of fresh air: When life gets too serious, lighthearted quotes, comics and anecdotes sprinkled throughout the magazine remind you to laugh.

4. A world view: News from around the globe–including photo essays on Afghanistan, societal stats, and reports on how countries are fighting climate change–offers an international perspective.

5. A true “digest”: No overwhelming lists like “30 ways to cook healthy” or “20 ways to lose 10 pounds” here. This magazine has plenty of tips, but it keeps them in the single digits.

First for Women vs. Woman’s World: Which One Suits You?

first_for_women.jpgRecently I was introduced to a women’s magazine I’d never heard of before, First for Women magazine. Published every three weeks by Bauer Media Group, it’s been around for quite a while (since 1989) but somehow I missed it. At first glance, it reminded me a lot of a weekly magazine with which I was familiar, Woman’s World magazine. Both have a newsweekly look and feel and feature weight-loss and food stories prominently on the cover. And both are great resources for women constantly on the lookout for quick, practical tips on cooking, decorating, budgeting, relationships and healthy living. But the similarities end there. So before going out and buying copies of both, how do you determine which one suits you? Pick the checklist below that best describes you!

You’ll love First for Women magazine if…

1. You want to connect. From smart solutions to everyday conundrums to funny photos and phrases, you’ll hear what other readers have to say and share a few laughs.

2. You need your celebrity fix. You like to keep up with your favorite stars and maybe even steal a few tips from them on fashion, beauty and cooking.  

3. You’re not a genius in the kitchen. So you’re not a natural Betty Crocker. You’ll find plenty of quick, easy recipes and step-by-step instructions on everything from torting a cake to cutting up chicken. Should you burn something, turn to the “Can This Dish Be Saved?” feature for a chef intervention.

4. You can’t live without your quizzes. Are you too good of a wife? Do you do enough for you? Maybe you’ve never considered these questions, but this magazine holds the keys to some of the answers.

5. You love your pets as much as your plants.
From disarming a defensive cat to dog-proofing your plants, pet ownership brings its share of challenges. You’ll find a section with advice for you, along with heartwarming stories about animals to keep you warm and fuzzy.

womans_world.jpgYou’ll prefer Woman’s World magazine if…

1. You crave inspiration. From dramatic weight-loss stories to tales about guardian angels and lives transformed, these features will give you chills. 

2. You’re the queen of coupons. Budget conscious? This magazine gives you coupons to clip, along with helpful hints on bagging bargains.

3. You’re pretty darn crafty. If you’ve got a talent for turning trash into treasure, you’ll find lots of ideas to help you do that–from transforming card tables into castles to sprucing up your home with knit. 

4. The kitchen is your playground. Ready to experiment? Recipes for Earl Grey cookies, old-fashioned Sunday suppers and other creative concoctions will put you in touch with your inner gourmet. 
5. You’re a trivia nut. Fast facts, quick stats, and studies share how to ward off cancer with pistachios and stave off wrinkles with pomegranate juice. You like to keep a running list of the latest news in your head, and you’re sure to get it here!

Let’s Hear It for the Ladies (Home Journal)

ladies_home_journal.jpgWhen it comes to women’s magazines, readers have a smorgasbord to choose from. With all the titles out there, you could easily gorge yourself. Ladies’ Home Journal magazine is a longtime staple (and trailblazer) in this genre, but it wouldn’t be the first magazine I would pick up on impulse. It doesn’t have the flash of Cosmopolitan magazine, the glitz of Glamour magazine or the celebrity status of O, the Oprah Magazine. Despite its longevity–it was launched as a column in 1883 and evolved into a full-fledged publication a year later–it’s often labeled as a magazine for housekeepers and women past their prime. But while reading through a recent issue, I found the opposite to be true.

Sure, the cover touted more practical, down-to-earth content than the sex- and beauty-obsessed covers of other magazines, and the cover girl, Julianna Margulies (in a tasteful dress without a plunging neckline), spilled secrets on the joys of giving back instead of the usual gossipy fare. But there is something refreshing about a publication whose top features focus on healthy dieting, managing money, service and “how to feel blessed, not stressed.”

For women immersed in a multitasking world, Ladies’ Home Journal offers balance and simplicity. Unlike some magazines, which toss you about from section to section and drown you with more information than you can possibly use, this one lets you navigate through like you’re gliding across a lapping lake–each page flows seamlessly into the next. Departments are broken down into the straightforward categories of life, style, home, health and food, with a nice blend of newsy snippets and in-depth features.

My favorite recurring features (most of which fall in the Life department) are:
• Ladies’ Lounge: Fun contests like “Nominate America’s hottest honey (aka hubby),” plus links to online forums
• Feeling Great: Features devoted to…you guessed it: feeling great!
• Can This Marriage Be Saved?: Running since 1953, this column attempts to solve a problem faced by a married couple by examining it from the perspective of the husband, the wife and the counselor
• Make It Happen: Profiles on women who defy the odds to realize a dream
• Acts of Kindness: Anecdotes from readers touched by the good deeds of others

More than any women’s magazine I’ve read lately, this one puts a big emphasis on serving others (without sacrificing your sanity). It’s no wonder considering its history. The publication is famous for featuring the work of social reformers like Jane Addams, urging women to join volunteer organizations during World War II and encouraging political activism in the ’60s. Today in Ladies’ Home Journal, you’ll find loads of stories about women making a difference, from the orphan who returned to the halfway house she grew up in to help other kids in need to the newlywed who escaped a battered home to fight domestic violence as a police officer.

The magazine’s mantra, “Never underestimate the power of a woman,” is alive and well–and brings a big-picture perspective to a genre often convoluted by its focus on celebrities and self.