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Adhering to the Public’s Introduction For many years magazines have been used specifically to cater to the needs

of the public. This paper will examine three theories: uses and gratification, cognitive


dissonance, and cultural values and show how they are used by Essence magazine’s writers to adhere to the needs of its audiences. History Magazines In 1825, there were fewer than 100 magazines in the country; by 1850 the number had swelled to 600, and magazines had established themselves as a mass medium (“History of Magazines,” 2004). Women's magazines represent the most successful magazine category financially. According to Frydlewicz (2002) in “the Female Persuasion” in 2001 magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour or Vogue had a 73 percent larger audience among women age 18 to 49. Theories of Persuasion Elihu Katz (1974) along with colleagues J.G. Blumer and Michael Gurevitch published a collection of essays on gratification. Elihu Katz (1974) first introduced the uses and gratification approach, when he came up with the notion that people use the media to their benefit (Rossi, 2002). Through their research they examined how an individual’s personal needs are met through the media. The uses and gratifications approach has five basic assumptions: the audience is conceived as active, in the mass communication process much initiative in linking need gratification and media choice lies with the audience member, the media competes with other sources of need satisfaction, many of the goals media use can be derived from data supplied by the individual audience members themselves, and value judgments about cultural

2005). Cultural values are defined by Borchers (2005) as “as a set of organized rules for making choices. are among the first researchers to identify and explain the values from which people operate (Paterno. 2005). Leon Festinger’s (1951) first approach to cognitive dissonance was initiated by an earthquake that occurred in Indiana in 1951. Researchers.Adhering to the Public’s significance of mass communication should be suspended while audience operations are 3 explored on their own terms (Rossi. reducing uncertainty. The natural disaster caused individuals to create rumors that worsen the condition of the area and Festinger (1951) wondered why these “anxiety-provoking rumors” were so strong. They ended up with an explanation that people were experiencing dissonance and sought to reduce it (Nickel. Edward Steele and Charles Redding (1979). The last theory to be analyzed is cultural values. Festinger (1951) defined cognitive dissonance as a way in which individuals seek balance or consistency when there is inconsistency between two beliefs (as cited in Borchers. 2000). 2002). with a Adhering to the Public’s 4 . Audience Essence magazine is a preeminent lifestyle magazine for today’s African-American woman. The first issue of Essence hit the newsstands in May 1970. and reducing conflicts within a given society” (p. These assumptions led Katz and his colleagues (1974) to identify motives by which people use media and the motive to be discussed is personal identity. 217 Steele and Redding (1979) came up with a list of values which are held by the American people and the main focus in this paper will be the value of progress.

which is defined as the need to learn who we are and this is done by exposing ourselves to a variety of media characters (Borchers. “Big Girls Don’t Cry. 2005. This article gives examples of women that have experienced inconsistency in their lives and gives advice on how to face Adhering to the Public’s 5 . The article exemplifies the uses and gratification motive of personal identity. 2005). The publication now has a monthly circulation of 1. Essence magazine is a source of information for women of color and helps them understand their beauty. In this article. uses and gratification. In the article. 57).” 2005). “I didn’t win. 2005).” Diane Weathers discusses how to bounce back after things fall apart. p.166). Essence allows the audience to relate to Jones on the issue of image by sharing her story on the difficulties she went through trying to break into the fashion world as a size 14.circulation of 50. Toccara Jones tells readers about her struggle to become a model in a market where size does matter.” Former Top Model contestant. “Life Interrupted.063. p. but I think I made America believe that I or another woman with curves – could. The first theory. strength and uniqueness (Lee. The next theory Essence uses to relate to its audience through an article is cognitive dissonance.000 and a readership of more than seven million (“Essence Magazine. are used in the article titled. Cognitive dissonance is when individuals seek balance or consistency in their lives (Borchers.000. Effects The three theories above affect the readers by using them in three articles in the September 2005 issue of Essence magazine. Jones states.” (Hira. 2005.

sophisticated African American woman. She also gives readers steps to follow when they are faced with some of the same situations. There are times when we need to vent our anger at God. Essence is able to relate to the professional.197). 2005. Taylor. p. For example. “There are times when we need to acknowledge anger at those who have harmed us or let us down. Essence isolates one of America’s cultural values. God can take it” (Weathers. 2005. Weather gives the readers a chance to relate by using real life everyday women.” by Susan L.” (Taylor. The last theory utilized by Essence magazine is cultural values. and reducing conflicts within a given society” (Borchers. and cultural values. Conclusion In closing. Taylor states that our community is “in a deep crisis and many see no way out. in an article named “In the Spirit.11). p.their feelings head on. 2005. Cultural values are defined as “a set of organized rules for making choices. Adhering to the Public’s References 6 . With their understanding of personal identity. 2005. Essence magazine uses this article to reiterate to the public of our mission to prosper in our communities.11).217). p. progress. ‘Go ahead. Essence magazine shows how these three theories are used throughout their magazine to accommodate the needs of its readers. She states.” as “offering steppingstones along life’s journey of spiritual growth. p. In this monthly message Taylor discussed the goal of “In the Spirit.” but “transformation is possible” (Taylor. Weather mentions a female reverend named Sandye Wilson who states how hard is it was for her to deal with her feelings of anger when a crisis arises. cognitive dissonance. reducing uncertainty.

In the Spirit.html Paterno. from http://www.” (n. November 29. Essence.html Hira.findarticles. Kendra. from Weathers. (2000). Retrieved.csufresno.166. 258.Borchers.” Retreived. (2005). Retrieved. Persuasion in the Media Age.).html Lee.195-198.” (2002).) New York:McGrawHill. . “Essence Magazine. 2005. (2nd ed. November 29.. 2005. from http://www.essence.unc. ( p. Retrieved. p. television shows reach from http://www. December 1. Art. E. “History of Magazines. Big Girls Don’t Cry.d. Nadira.16109.” Retrieved. December 1. Diane.” (2004). (2002). November 29. 2005. Retrieved.00. “Cultural Values.“Uses & Gratifications/ Dependency Theory. (2005. September).com/essence/ourcompany/0. p.htm Taylor. from http://www. “Theories of Mass Comunication. Jim. November 29. “Essence Turns from http://blackvoices. Essence. Timothy A. Life Interrupted. 2005. December 1.” Retrieved. (1979). “The Female Persuasion :survey data on how magazines. September). “History of Nickel.” Retrieved. from http://zimmer. Nico.angelfire. 2005.htm Kleiner. 2005. 2005. December 1. (2005. from http://www.well. September).” (2005). (2005).html Rossi.