The Death of Life Magazine

By: Jacob Hales

When was the last time you read a magazine? A newspaper? Any printed news source? It’s probably been a while. In a forward-thinking world that’s turning digital, companies like National Geographic and TIME continue to print their publications. In spite of this, they are slowly making the move to the digital medium. The age of printed publications is coming to a close. With that, we say goodbye to one of the more familiar news journals: Life magazine.

In 1883, Life started as a weekly humor/general interest magazine until the early 1930s when the owner of TIME magazine bought the rights to the name: Life. Since then, the content of the magazine has been saturated with photojournalism. Photographers like Alfred Eisenstaedt and Henri Cartier-Bresson contributed photos ranging from extensive foreign conflicts to Hollywood superstars; however, the ultimate high point of the magazine was during WWII. Veritably, some of the greatest photographs in the magazine’s history were taken during this major military feat. Photos of American soldiers fighting in the South Pacific and in small European towns were being seen by nearly every person in the United States. It was the pinnacle of American photojournalism.

Life went on to produce other major news stories, including ,but not limited to, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Moon landing, the sinking of the Andrea Doria, and the Vietnam War. The magazine was very successful amongst American consumers and became a household name by the early 1950’s. But it appears that the times (no pun intended) have changed. In 2000, Life stopped producing the magazine on a monthly basis. It was brought back briefly in 2004 to produce limited quantities a few times a year; however, it appeared that, by then, everyone had forgotten about the magazine. The loss of Life would have gone by without fanfare, but in 2013, a group of filmmakers released The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Starring Ben Stiller as Walter, the film delved into the last issue of Life magazine and the search for the true meaning of the company. It soon brought attention to the magazine, which had gone completely digital by then.

The true meaning of Life had been successfully revealed by the filmmakers; the magazine wasn’t about general interest, humor, or even photojournalism. Life was about bringing people together; it was about making people laugh during times of darkness and pushing the American people to unite as one. When Life had finally released its last issue in 2004, the world lost not only a credible source of news but a bit of its humanity. With that, I leave you with the Life motto: “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of Life.”


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