'O' Magazine Editor Shares Holiday Tips

In the latest installment of Magazine Mavens, Susan Reed, newly installed editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, introduces herself to Tell Me More and shares O's favorite tips for the holidays, and ways listeners can keep their holiday budget in shape.

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

Switching gears now, the holidays are fast approaching. It's always a time for giving, for family and food. But with the economy in crisis, it's all about keeping yourself lean, your wallet as fat as possible, and your relationships with your loved ones and relatives from going sour.

To help us with all of that, we're checking in with one of our magazine mavens, Susan Reed, she is the editor-in-chief at O, The Oprah Magazine, to tell us how her publication is addressing these holiday questions and so much more. Susan, welcome. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

SUSAN REED: It's great to be here.

MARTIN: And, of course, I have to congratulate you. You came on board as editor-in-chief at O in July. So congratulations on that.

REED: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: And before that, you were editor-in-chief at Golf for Women, which during your tenure won a National Magazine Award for an expose on how women were being excluded at the Augusta National Golf Club. Now, I think that's very interesting because very often, the magazines which are focused on lifestyle don't necessarily turn the microscope on that lifestyle.

REED: That's right. It's a microcosm of everything. I mean, golf, let's say, is women's passion, but it's also political, it's sociological, it's economic, and it has a lot of gender issues. And as a journalist, to me, being in that world, I sometimes used to call myself like the Margaret Mead of golf. .I felt like an anthropologist or a sociologist or something, to walk into this world and look at it afresh. .

And, of course, when I got there, one of the first stories we decided to do was about how one of the major tournaments in the world is held at an exclusionary club. .It wasn't that we objected to the right of clubs to be all male. .But the biggest corporations in America and in the world are sponsoring this tournament. .So we just raised the question and kind of pointed a spotlight at it. .And as you may recall, it ignited a national debate.

MARTIN: .It did. It did ignite a national debate, which we covered as journalists. .But, in fact, women are still being excluded at Augusta National Golf Club. .Do you see yourself bringing investigative stories to O? .Or do you think that's perhaps a false dichotomy, that perhaps we think of investigative stories as belonging in one box?

REED: .It's something I very much want to do at O. .And it's something that the magazine has already done. .But I feel that there's no reason that O magazine, which is one of the biggest, most successful women's magazines in the U.S. should not tackle issues and journalism and stories with the same avidity and talent and questioning as every other magazine.

MARTIN: .And, of course, one of the things where many of us are avid about is the holidays, and O tackles this subject again with gusto. .There's a section entitled "The Reasons for the Season," in which you explore different winter celebrations for different cultures. .I want to talk about one piece in particular. .But is it hard to stay fresh on something that, golly, comes up every year? .You know - and I can serve the same meal every year because that's what my family expects, but you can't.

REED: .You're absolutely right. .I mean, here we are again, the holidays, particularly this year. .And we're in one of the most challenging times ever. .So, to me, it made complete sense to ask the question, why is it that we do some of the things that we do? .Why do we celebrate at this time of year? .What is the impulse behind buying gifts and eating meals and, you know, even fruitcake.

MARTIN: .Yeah, a fruitcake. .I don't know about fruitcake. .Speaking of invented constructs, there's a very funny piece by Paul Rudnick, who talks about inventing his own holiday. .If you feel like none of the standard holidays suit you, invent your own. .Why did he do that?

REED: .Paul Rudnick is one of the funniest writers alive. .The great thing is asking writers a question because they usually have a very surprising answer. .And so for Paul Rudnick who grew up Jewish in New Jersey surrounded by Christian playmates and schoolmates who had trees and presents and all this, and when the culture around you is so prevalent in one way, you know, he felt really left out. .

And so he and his parents decided to create their own holiday at a different time and in a different way, and then they all watched TV on Christmas and enjoyed themselves and watched, you know, the football games and stuff. .So I think it was such a great idea, though. .If you feel oppressed or in any way kind of beleaguered by it, make up your own.

MARTIN: .I'll have to think about that because I find it hard enough to keep up with the traditions I already know about. .I'm not sure I have the energy to make up anymore but...

REED: .Oh, dump them, Michel.

MARTIN: .OK. .I'll tell my family that you said so. .The thing about O is that O stitches together a lot of the, you know, of the fun of life and, you know, the clothes, the fashion, the food. .But there's also inspiration in every edition. .For example, this month, there's an articled called "The Rabble-Rousers" about Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian mother of five. .She has quite a remarkable story, if you could tell us a little bit about her.

REED: .Your listeners may be familiar with a new movie that's just come out called "Pray the Devil Back to Hell." .And it was made by Abigail Disney, who is the grandniece of Walt Disney. .And part of our story was the story of how Abigail Disney came to meet Leymah Gbowee. .

And Leymah Gbowee was one of these women. She lived in Liberia. .As you know, Liberia was just racked by a terrible civil war from the late '80s to the '00s. .And a little bit like women in Northern Ireland, Gbowee organized women in Liberia to essentially say no to civil war. .

And Abigail Disney made a documentary about Leymah Gbowee and her movement. .And it's playing around the United States now. .It won the Tribeca Film Festival award. .And it's an extraordinary story.

MARTIN: .Finally, I always ask this question. .It's always unfair, but I need to ask you. .What is your favorite piece in the magazine this month? .And can I tell you mine?

REED: .You can.

MARTIN: .My favorite piece is "An Operation Called Hope." .It's about an all-female team of doctors who provide free reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lips and palates. .And it sounds like a small thing. .But in countries where you cannot have access to this surgery, it's impossible to eat, and many of these children would not survive otherwise, so I think that's my favorite. .So what's your favorite?

REED: .You know, I loved that story, too. .And it was really moving, especially heart-breaking because one of the subjects in the story, a little boy who's 13, came in for the cleft palate surgery, and he turned out to be too old for the surgery because the palate still has to be soft. .But we at the magazine are actually looking into trying to bring him over to the U.S. and try to get him the surgery. .That was one of my favorite stories, too.

But I have to - you know, on a more superficial vein, I have to say that I took great delight in our gift guide. .We have 63 gifts for under 100 dollars. .My favorite two pages are actually Oprah's favorite gifts. .And the great thing about Oprah is that she, as you said, spans this wonderful range between substance, meaning, and also the best cupcakes in the world.

MARTIN: .Well, here's to that. .Well, you know what they say, we need both. We need bread and roses.

REED: .That's right.

MARTIN: .That's right. .Susan Reed is editor in chief at O, the Oprah Magazine. .She was kind enough to join us in our New York studio. .Thank you so much.

REED: .Thanks, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: We just talked about O Magazine's take on the holidays, now we'd like to hear yours. .With Thanksgiving approaching, we want to know, what are you giving thanks for this holiday? .Family, good health? .And what about that special Thanksgiving memory that still brings you joy? .

To share your attitudes of gratitude, please call our comment line at 202-842-3522. .That's 202-842-3522. .Please be sure to tell us your name, how to pronounce it, and also how to pronounce the city or town where you live. .And you can always go to our webpage at npr.org, just click on Tell Me More and blog it out.

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