If you subscribe to or purchase a Sunday newspaper (a dwindling number of Americans, unfortunately), there’s a good chance that each week you get either Parade or USA Weekend stuffed somewhere among the weekly coupons and store circulars.
This past weekend, both had their back-to-school editions.
The supplements aren’t exactly cutting-edge journalism, with their mixes of celebrity interviews, recipes, and safe features. Though thinner than they used to be, the supplements are still pretty big business.
Parade, founded in 1941, is distributed in more than 700 newspapers, with a circulation of 32 million copies every week. Now owned by Advance Publications Inc., it claims to be the most widely read magazine in the United States.
USA Weekend is distributed in 600 newspapers and has a weekly circulation of 18.4 million. It was founded in 1985, when its owner, the newspaper publisher Gannett Co., purchased Family Weekly, a similar Sunday supplement.
Parade‘s 2014 back-to-school issue has a lead feature on “Building a Better Teacher,” adapted from the Elizabeth Green book out this month of the same title. (Give some kudos to Green’s PR or book agents; she also nabbed a cover story excerpting her book in The New York Times Magazine a week ago last Sunday.) The secondary Parade feature is a sidebar about 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb, with advice for parents about cultivating positive relationships with their children’s teachers.
USA Weekend is a bit more ambitious, with features on the Kind campaign, which is aimed at battling female bullying; an interview with Patricia Marx, a former writer for “Saturday Night Live” who is the author of a new book, “Home Colleging: (Because You Have No Choice),” that parodies college admissions manuals; and tips for healthier school lunches.
Speaking of parodies, when Parade and USA Weekend are not serving as caricatures of themselves, fake news site The Onion is always willing to lampoon the concept, with its own Onion Magazine and Onion Weekender.
The Onion Weekender‘s back-to-school cover from a year ago had a pretty biting theme on school violence. Definitely not boring or safe, journalistically speaking.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.