MEDIA - REPORTING ON OTHER MEDIA: MEDIA PROFILE - Psychology Todayshows that science can have broad appeal

Once the 'alternative to Scientific American,' Psychology Today now

offers science-rich content with a celebrity angle to draw general and

professional readers alike.

Back in the 1970s, Psychology Today's circulation was around 1.2

million. It was a scientific monthly that served as "kind of an

alternative to Scientific American," says current editor-in-chief Robert


Then the magazine changed ownership, and in attempt to gain more

readers, it moved toward covering pop psychology. "That didn't work,"

says Epstein, 48, who has a Harvard Ph.D. with three degrees in

psychology, but no prior publishing experience. Epstein has been putting

his mark on the now bimonthly publication for the past two years and,

according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the magazine's total paid

figures are up slightly from 325,000 (first half of 2000) to 328,000

(first half of 2001).

Epstein insists on science-based stories with a mental-health or

behavioral-sciences angle, and welcomes PR input. But while trying to

rebuild the magazine's credibility as a source of science-based

information, Epstein is trying "very hard" to make it "fun and upbeat"

at the same time.

Star power is part of his mix for kicking new life into Psychology

Today, which under Epstein has flashed celebrities on the cover to draw

readers to inside stories written by science and medical experts.

Supermodel Christy Turlington was on a recent cover as a tie-in to a

story entitled "Why I Hate Beauty." The article was "very heavy science,

but was about how beauty kind of screws up our attitudes toward the

regular people in our lives," he says.

Other marquee names dressing up covers include actors Ashley Judd and

Robin Williams, as well as the Dalai Lama. Featured on the forthcoming

issue's cover will be actress Carrie Fisher, daughter of Hollywood's

Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, highlighting a story on bipolar

disorder (more commonly known as manic depression).

Epstein most recently interviewed Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York,

for a story on weight loss and nutrition. The October edition features

Jane Seymour on the cover, and discusses family relationships. Though

the theme for the issue is "desire," cover lines pose the question, "Can

men and women ever be friends?"

"Again, it's the companion pieces that are critical," emphasizes

Epstein, also a professor at United States International University in

San Diego, and author of 10 books. Having a celebrity to tie into a

pitch can help.

"As long as there's a legitimate mental health angle, we don't care who

it is," says Epstein.

"More and more, we're designing an issue around a cover," he adds. "But

nothing gets into the magazine unless it has scientific support.

Nothing." Epstein is hands-on, managing Psychology Today's print and

online content from San Diego, where he has a laboratory and teaches on

learning and cognition. "Every single piece in the magazine, large or

small, goes through me," he says, but most of the writing is done by the

full-time editorial staff based in New York and other contributors.

Psychology Today has been bimonthly since 1991, but Epstein says it

"definitely" will return to a monthly frequency, and the issues will

become thicker.

Gone is the magazine's two-hour daily internet radio show Epstein hosted

Monday through Friday at, an outlet that recently lost its

financial backing.

The problem with most PR approaches to the magazine is that queries

aren't science-based, says Epstein. "The only time those make it into

the magazine is for one particular page, 'My Story,' where someone can

tell a first-person story (usually about recovery). Other than that, as

long as it's science-based, has a mental-health or behavioral-sciences

angle, we'd be happy to look at it," he notes.

The up-front "News" section depends on press releases and other input

from outside sources. Departments within the section are labeled

"Brain," "Education," "Work," and "Relationships." But remember that

stories must be aimed at the lay reader.


Psychology Today

Address: 49 East 21st Street,

11th Floor, New York, NY 10010

Tel: (212) 260-7210

Fax: (212) 260-7445



Editor-in-chief: Robert Epstein, (760) 613-9948 or (858) 539-2091

Executive editor: Lybie Ma

Deputy editor: Michael Seeber

Senior editor: Carin Gorrell

News editor: Kaja Perina

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