The Killing Fields of Soap Journalism

Thinking Fans Comment Update Aug. 17: Young Jay spent his snack money on Soap Opera Weekly … Professor Cindy calls for higher soap writing standards … Liz V is saddened by the decline of soap journalism … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

This is a short note to Marlena readers in another terrible week in a year that has become Marlena’s personal “horribus annee.”  My elderly mother is hospitalized again and I had a terrible toothache, necessitating getting a wisdom tooth pulled.  Who could pay attention to soap operas? Yet Hinsey-gate — the firing of the editor of Soap Opera Weekly — loomed large, casting a shadow that still hasn’t gone away.

Many readers have written to me, asking for a comment on the Hinsey story.  Here it is. But first some background:

After 10 years as a soap magazine editor, writer and newspaper  journalist, I originated the Critical Condition column in Soap Opera Weekly.  It was a pioneering critical column in the field and I wrote more than 570 columns, from the magazine’s inception in 1989 until 2001.  Early that year, Soap Opera Digest took over the management of SOW and eventually named one of their own editors, Carolyn Hinsey, as our editor. Immediately,  I knew that my critical voice, fiercely protected for years by SOW founding editor Mimi Torchin, was not compatible with the unhealthy political alliances the journalistically corrupt,  bullying Digest Dames had made within the industry. So back in July 2001, I  made my own personal comment on Hinsey and the SOD management: I quit.

Until then, Weekly had been a valuable, intelligently produced magazine and I loved  my job writing a column that became very popular with readers and was well read throughout the soap world.   But I didn’t realize until last week, when the epic Jossip column on Hinsey ran, that so many other displaced SOW/SOD editors and staffers had gone through the same personal pain and costly career derailment that I had. Victims by the score!  The Killing Fields of soap journalism!

So Marlena would like to salute all her fallen colleagues and especially send her love to her many friends whose careers were negatively impacted  because of SOD and Hinsey: the funny and  wonderful writer Alan Carter, SOW founding editor Mimi (with whom I  worked on magazines as early as 1978), the super savvy publicist Frank Tobin, my column’s editor Robert Schork, and the many other staffers and industry professionals who suffered and/or fell after us.

But surprise! We all survived!  We are all working elsewhere, and the cause of intelligent journalism lives on.  I’m very happy to have revived the Marlena De Lacroix name online two years ago and on this website 10 months ago, and I have been blessed by two things:  One, I am boss of me. And two, this blog has attracted so many wonderful, yes, Thinking Fans. What really thrills me is that so many of you are old friends who read my original SOW column.

And all this pain taught me a lesson, one I frequently pass on to my college journalism students.  Journalism is a competitive business.  But while others may try to copy you, no one can replicate your talent or originality.  Or take away your great love of what you do.      

Comments

  1. Willow Lake says:

    At long last, the esteemed Marlena weighs in! Hallelujah!!! As far as I am concerned, no soap story is complete until you express your valued opinion. And it is, of course, SPOT ON without being inflammatory. Thanks!

  2. David says:

    Oh how I miss the glory days of Soap Opera Weekly! It’s a sham now and I won’t be surprised with buget cuts if Weekly and Digest are folded together into one soap rag. And I don’t say “rag” lightly! Like soaps operas in general Weekly has been dumbed down and they think they are giving soap fans what they want. WRONG! If their readership is down they have only themselves to blame! Bring back Mim Torchin! Bring back Marlena!!!!! I’d be very interested to see if readership increased with Mimi back in charge….. Thank God for you and your column Marlena!!!!! Have a great weekend!

  3. Aaron says:

    Very well put, Marlena!

    I’m one of those fans who LOVED SOW (or, SPW, depending on who was abbreviating it, lol) and still cherish my uninterrupted five year collection. They STILL make for great reading, even though the topics they covered are long since past relevant.

    I’ll always be grateful to Mimi Torchin; she turned a simple letter to the editor that I wrote about how soaps handle gay characters into a FULL PAGE article. I will never, ever forget the feeling I got opening the magazine and seeing my letter treated with such respect. I even got a beautiful card from Freeman Gunter.

    And I looked forward so much to your columns, and the information and sass you gave to us. When I found out you had brought Marlena back as a website, I immediately searched it out and bookmarked it.

    It was a great time to be a soap fan, and I owe so much of my love, respect and adoration for this industry (or at least what the industry was and can be again) to you and the Soap Opera Weekly staff.

    I hope you recover from your wisdom tooth extraction; I had four done at once, but it was worth it. I’ll also send out my best wishes for a speedy recovery to your mom.

    Marlena says: Thanks everyone, this was a very difficult column to write. And Aaron, thanks for the sweet personal wishes!

  4. Wendy says:

    In my recent return to soap fandom after about 8-9 years away, it’s been so cool to see so many familiar names online. :)

    In the 90s, Soap Opera Weekly was the best. During one of my many moves between 2000 and 2005, I finally jettisoned all the SPWs I had kept for years and years out of pure love for the magazine.

    I’m so glad you’re back! Now that the Thinking Critics and Thinking Fans are more vocal/active again, maybe the soaps will follow suit and up the intelligence quotient.

  5. Fabobug says:

    Marlena,
    Thank you for such an eloquent and dignified commentary. It’s one thing to see hundreds of people anonymously slinging mud. It’s quite another to see someone with responsiblity and poise share her personal experience. You continue to elevate the standards of the medium, I hope others follow suit.

  6. Jay says:

    Marlena,

    Your Critical Condition column in SPW is what started me reading and faithfully buying that publication. I can remember walking to the local grocery store as a child for Grandma, I would ask for an extra $2 for a snack, which I would use to buy my favorite guilty pleasure.

    Your writings were so insightful and I fed off your emotional attachment to your “stories.” It was you who inspired me to begin writing my own “personal editorials” as a young teen, and to this day, it’s still a dream of mine to follow in your footsteps OR even write for GL one day!

    Thanks so much for making me believe that my infatuation with soap operas wasn’t freakish or not normal, in your own way, you made a young boy think that I could use my love of GL and writing in general and actually turn into a passion I could pursue as I got older. I must say that the day I google your name, and came upon this site, I felt like I had reconnected to an old friend.

    Marlena says: This is one of the sweetest letters I have ever received in my life, Jay! It means so much to me! I don’t think there are going to be many soap journalists in a few years, but a talented writer can always work. If you do want to write professionally, start working for your high school or college newspaper now. And study English or journalism when you get to college. Writing teachers (like me!) greatly enjoy developing new talents, so attach yourself to one you like. You’ll do great! Thanks again for making a difficult day much, much better, darling. XXXOOO

  7. Jay says:

    Although I have already done the high school and college thing, you have inspired me to go back and take up my true love … journalism, which I wish I have done the first go round, instead of settling for a stuffy business degree. Thanks for setting me on a new path in life. Maybe one day I’ll get to meet the person who helped me to break free and follow my dreams

    Marlena says: Ah, thank you dear. I’m sniffling!

  8. horselover says:

    Marlena,

    I had no idea that so many people hated Ms. Hinsey and the Digest Dames. I will say this. I used to love both SOW and SOD but it definitely took a turn for the worse although I can’t say exactly when. While I have absolutely no idea what went on behind the scenes, I used to scream at Hinsey’s columns. What was the big deal about killing off Alan Quartermaine, she would ask. It’s just business when they let Anna Lee off contract, she would tell us fans. What’s the big deal about Jax being raped by a woman, she would ask us. Get out your calculators, fans. Soaps only have so much money so they can’t have all your favorite characters on the show so don’t be mad if they kill off another legacy character. Don’t be mad when the vets look unrecognizable. You should be grateful they’re even on. And on and on and on. I realized then she was no longer a voice for the fans. She was in someone’s (Frons?) back pocket. I stopped purchasing SOW and SOD.

    Then to my delight, I found columns online that felt the same way I did. Wow! What a revelation. It’s been so nice to have intelligent journalists validate my feelings about my favorite soap. I look forward to your columns (and others I have found online) weekly. And it’s nice to be able to comment as well.

    I’m sorry you and many of your co-workers had to go through so much pain. My only hope is that someone fires those in charge of the soaps as well. It’s WAY beyond time.

    Marlena says: Renee, SOW was years ago and I’m over it! In the interim I have gotten a master’s degree, started my blog, and continued college teaching. I’m so glad you enjoy my column and write frequently!

  9. DS0816 says:

    Dear Connie/Marlena,

    If memory serves me correctly, “Soap Opera Weekly’s” first issue was in November 1989.

    I liked the publication right from the beginning. I thought it was sensitive—giving soaps a respectful, artistic perspective—and produced by a staff that truly love soap-opera television.

    Everyone involved in that publication—you, Mark McGarry, and “Weekly” Editior-in-Chief Mimi Torchin (to name just three)—performed dutifully and inspiritingly in giving its readers a quality magazine that wasn’t fan-fluff. I could never sufficiently express my gratitude to you—as well as Mark and Mimi (etc.)—because there’s an element represented in the early years of “Weekly” that give one the impression that [“Weekly”] was the staff’s Labor of Love.

    A partial confession: I wrote some letters to “Weekly” that were printed in “Public Opinion” in the mid-1990s. (I choose not to go so far as to reveal myself, here, nor any of the content of my letters. I still have a few old issues, and I’ll hang onto them.)

    I took notice of “Weekly’s” decline beginning in the early-2000s with the uncalled-for recognition of loosely defining soaps in prime-time. It became a ridiculous stretch to consider the likes of “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” and “Sex and the City”—as well as some reality-based fare—worthy of “Weekly” coverage. I disliked the physical look of the redesign—as what we see today—because it came across as cheesy and amateur. And purposely so—especially in feeding with the cover art that has, to this day, bore resemblance to tabloid-type headlines.

    Having visited Jossip.com for the past few days, it is mind-blowing to read the commentary about the work environment at both “Soap Opera Weekly” and “Soap Opera Digest.” I never before gave any thought to in-house controversies between anybody—and I certainly didn’t consider anyone all that powerful (as presented in the image/form of Hinsey). Apparently, I haven’t been aware of anything regarding just-fired editor Carolyn Hinsey—nor anyone else her traveled in her circle (mentioned at Jossip.com… I think it’s good that an “outsider” like myself has just learned “some” of this stuff; and in reading what you, Connie/Marlena, have described about “some” of your “Weekly” experience—and what led to your exit—it sounds to me like you’re better off as well. (I hope you don’t find it inappopriate of me having written that.)

  10. Coggie says:

    Back then, I thought you’d quit because management–whoever they were–leaned on you for being outspoken about DOOL. I quit my subscription of SPW shortly thereafter.

    The lesson you teach your journalism students is a lesson I have learned firsthand, often the hard way, but it is a truth I have clung to.

    Marlena says: You are one of the wonderful reader friends I was fortunate to get to know back then. You always knew exactly what was going on with me, and your support continues to mean the world to me.

  11. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    Merci beaucoup! C’est une tres joli column.

    I remember when you were doing Afternoon TV in the early 80s. I loved that magazine because it had a review, a critique of a different soap each month. And as a fan, I was hungry for that opinion, hungry for some critical analysis of what was working and what wasn’t working on the shows. No other mag was doing that so I excitedly sought out Afternoon TV each month.

    And when I discovered Soap Weekly about a year into its run (I’d seen it on the stands but ignored it at first, assuming it was another tabloid like the National Enquirer since it was the same size and used the same qualty of newsprint), I was immediately drawn to the Critical Condition column.

    Suddenly, I was able to read critques on aspects of the soaps on a WEEKLY basis. I was in heaven. And not only that, all the rest of the magazine was treating soaps and its viewers as intelligent beings. This is what the soaps had needed for so long!

    It upset me greatly when Mimi left. And I knew for sure the glory days were over when Marlena exited the building. But I continued to buy it out of habit — there still was useful information and interesting interviews. But especially with the latest redisgn, its usefulness has completely evaporated. .

    Until the Jossip thread emerged, I never realzied how many other FANS were so upset by what was being done to Weekly. Glad to know I wasn’t alone, but sorry we ever had to go through that.

    So sorry so many fine journalist were treated so poorly. I’m glad they’re finally getting a catharsis and a and validation for the horrors they were subjected to by The Devil Wears Lane Bryant (wish I’d created that name, but alas I didn’t).

    I did, however, write the parody of Carolyn’s It’s Only My Opinion column (message #62 on Jossip).

    And I, along with many others, did write that the best way to fix Hinsey-gate would be to rehire Mimi and Marlena immediately

    Marlena says: James, I’m glad you liked my work at Weekly and it is always a pleasure to hear from you at marlenadelacroix.com. I don’t how Mimi feels, but I think we have both moved a long way since the end of our magazine days. I love doing my blog!

  12. Brandon says:

    Marlena, I must completely agree with Jay. I stumbled upon your SPW column in the summer of 1993 when I was 17 (it was the one in which you ripped into “One Life to Live” for that cheesy Viki/Dorian face-off in the secret room, which was ostensibly done to mark the show’s 25th anniversary) and was an instant fan. As I told you previously, thanks to that miraculous innovation known as eBay, I have been subsequently able to piece together a complete collection of Weeklys, and I did that exclusively because I hung on your every word and wanted desperately to know your take on *everything*.

    Save for a pair each of ’95 and ’96 issues, I still have every single copy of Weekly that has been published — pull ‘em down once a year or so and leaf through them, to this day — and I’m quite simply flabbergasted at how the quality of EVERY facet of the magazine has plummeted.

    I like to count myself as a “Thinking Fan” and I like to believe that you had an enormous influence on my becoming exactly that; even when I disagreed with you vehemently (for instance, I always thought Linda Gottlieb was the greatest gift ABC ever gave my old fave “One Life to Live,” and I still believe this genre would greatly benefit from someone with Gottlieb’s peculiar joie and moxie these days), you never failed to make me take a second (and even third!) look at whatever situation you attacked. Through your brilliant column, you showed me how to appreciate art where it stands (the rampant symbolism which pulsed through Claire Labine’s “General Hospital” tenure, say) and how to disregard trash where it lay (Annie’s “cremation” on “Sunset Beach” or “All My Children’s” tacky Libidizone disaster, to name but two), and most poignantly, how. to. recognize. the. difference.

    For fighting the good fight as long as you could, and for helping me (and countless others) to seek and find a deeper understanding and appreciation of a unique genre of storytelling that I have loved since I was but a wee child, you should be saluted, Marlena. Like Jay above, I started doing backflips when you rechristened your nom de plume on this sensational site, and I look forward to growing old with your wisdom ringing in my ears.

    You truly are one of a kind, mon cherie.

    Marlena says: I love you, Brandon!

  13. Matthew Cormier says:

    Wow Marlena, at last an intelligent and thoughtful take on the Hinsey situation. It is nice to see somebody put a personal take on this situation and do so with some thought and not resort to just attacking Hinsey and the other SOD/SOW employees.

    Marlena says: Thanks Matthew. I lived it!

  14. Purple Haze says:

    I go back quite a ways to when soap opera magazines were even less distinguished than SOD and SOW are today. The articles were geared to fans with (at best) a sixth grade education. You would read one article in a magazine and virtually the exact article in another magazine.

    I remember when Jon Michael Kelly (whom you recently referenced) came on the scene and what a breath of fresh air he was! Finally, someone who didn’t “write down” to his audience. (I also remember his “bitch goddess” series, but one of his entries was on Taffy Sims, the white trash birth mother of the baby Martha Marceau bought on the black market on EON, and I figured he had lost his mind. Taffy Sims???? But I digress ….)

    I’ve always admired you as someone who carried on his legacy and showed great respect for your readership. I can see where this attitude would not have fit in with the narcissistic self-important “troika”.

    I thought all the piling on was a little much on the Hinseygate thread so your measured response was, again, a breath of fresh air.

    Marlena says: Thanks so much, Purp. I was a huge fan of the late Jon-Michael Reed’s very serious and literate Daily TV Serials Magazine (I still have a closetful of copies) and was very fortunate to get to work for him at the beginning of my soap career. A bigger influence on me personally was John Kelly Genovese, a friend of Reed’s, who first taught me all about soap criticism. Genovese was the first soap critic for the magazine I edited, Afternoon TV (1980-83). He was a really wonderful guy. I wish I knew what happened to him!

  15. Levi says:

    Well, I like your columns and Mimi’s columns because they are a thorough analysis of every soap opera. You comment on every soap not just the ones you really like.

    I first bought Soap Opera Weekly around the Reva/Josh/Annie triangle which I think won Soap Storyline of the year in 1996. I even bought the Reva and Dolly cover too (I actually loved that story—I may be in the minority)

    I have sinced kept the GL covers or the Jeva ones and I have seen a decline in the magazine since when I first read the magazine. I don’t like the all news format it has gone too. I think soaps are based on opinions and jornalistic opinions. You have to have the news but not for 30 pages.

    However, the Internet had saved our great soap journalists and the opinions can continue on. No matter if the soap medium dies or not, we can enjoy these moment of our opinions.

  16. Mary says:

    Dear Marlena,

    I was reluctant to write this letter, especially after reading all the positive comments you received about this column, but I’ve always sensed from your writing (I’m a fan from the SOW days too) that you were open to criticism, good and bad. I have no problem with your handling of the main subject of the column, the firing of Carolyn Hinsey. Compared to what I’ve read on other boards, yours was personal yet respectful and seemed to focus more on the people it affected rather than on the person who did all the damage. That being said, I do have to take issue with the title of this column and its accompanying photo. People may accuse me of being too PC but I feel it was insensitive to draw any parallels between “Hinseygate” and a real life genocide that killed 3 million people. I know that wasn’t your intent but it did overshadow the article for me so much so that I had to comment on it which I rarely do. I know it’s not unusual to compare our everyday lives to catastrophic events ( i.e. this place looks like a bomb hit it, I work in a warzone, etc) I’ve done it numerous times myself but I honestly feel this comparison and the photo went too far. Maybe for future use, we should start comparing certain events in our lives to FICTIONAL massacres. Goodness knows, we have our pick from soaps these days!

  17. Art says:

    Hey Marlena,

    I was there during the golden days of SOW. You and Mimi ran a very polish and respectable magazine. The thinking fan is what I have always been. I hate when writers insult the intelligence of the fans and I hate brown nosing soap editors and writers who are bias towards their favorite couples and actors. That witch Hinsley was very hated in the soap world. She was a tool for the ABC brand soap mainly and NBC and CBS soaps were basically cast aside by her. The Jossip blog was a blessing. So many people had a chance to get a lot of things off their chest. As one columnist put it, the comments posted were so outragous that they had to be true because nobody could make that up.

    Kudos to you, Marlena. I love your critical eye. Although at the moment I do not watch any soap opera. I still love reading your columns always.

    Marlena says: Thanks Art! By any chance, are you the Art Smith who worked at Soap Opera Magazine at the time? If so, we have many friends in common.

  18. Chris says:

    Hi Marlena,

    I’ve only posted a few times, but read your column religiously. Thank you for being an advocate and supporter of our wonderful genre.

    I’d also like to add that SOW suffered a huge blow when they lost journalists like you and Mimi Torchin. Gone were insightful critiques, thought provoking interviews and generally a well done publication.

    Like many of our soaps, I hope SOW can pull itself up from its boots straps and once again become a respectable magazine that promotes the daytime industry in a healthy way.

  19. Liz says:

    As usual, your column was an intelligent and entertaining read. I had no idea that Hinsey had so much power in the industry, but I have to say it makes me sad as I was never a big fan of her columns. I loved your Critical Condition column in SPW though. I read my magazines in an anal kind of way, usually. I start at the front and read cover to cover. My only exception was SPW. The minute I got it open, I couldn’t keep myself from leafing through it to read “Critical Condition” first. Then I devoured the rest of it. I stopped reading it when you left the publication.

    While I don’t always agree with your columns, they’re witty and entertaining. I wouldn’t miss them for the world.

    On another note, (totally OT) after your column praising OLTL and RS for the take over of Buchannan Enterprises; does it gall you to think that she’s not doing it as a culmination of twenty years of much needed revenge and as a symbol of Dorianesque justice, but to make Clint angry?

    Sigh… anyway, great column, I just had to speak up this week.

    Marlena says: Thanks so much for your very, very kind words, Liz. I get a little tingle when I hear you read my column first in SOW.

    As far as that Stasser column, I wrote it because with that hat they were clearly making Dorian the Alexis Carrington of One Life to Live. Twenty years ago I named Strasser the Alexis of daytime in a soap mag I wrote for. I am huge, huge Stasser fan, going back to 1969, when I saw her for the first time as Rachel on my first soap, Another World.

    I know from my years as a soap reporter (and from knowing Robin then too) that various writers and producers (JFP, Higley) have been unkind to Robin as an actress and Dorian as a character. I hear the current headwriter (the infamous Mr. Carlivati) adores her. So I deduced and wrote that the BE takeover appearance was payback for everyone who had put down Strasser and Dorian over the years. But you are right, Dorian could have done it just to anger Clint. On the other hand, it was a marvelously splashy “Hello Dolly” moment way too yummy just for the puny likes of avenging her break-up with the current Clint.

  20. David C says:

    As a discerning soap fan in early 1974 (age 12!) I stumbled upon Daily TV Serials and discovered intelligent writing about a genre that had already captivated me. The Edge of Night was my first soap love and in DTS I realized that there was much more to that incredible show and to this entire genre. I lamented that magazine’s untimely demise and lost track of soap opera journalism except for Soap Opera Digest. Then in the fall of 1989 I discovered Soap Opera Weekly and realized that the magic that was DTS was being re-created in many ways and that you Marlena were a vital part of that. Then the dumbing down started to happen and I never bothered with it again. Then I discovered this column online and I was smitten once again.

    Apparently even the worst rumors about Carolyn Hinsey were true and thank God it’s all come out and that she’s be deposed.

    I think the fairly quick and unrelenting public scorn for the genre began to happen coincide with (about the same time) the take-over of Soap Opera Digest/Weekly.

    Suddenly, there were no voices against ridiculous and absurd soap plots, no serious criticism of the dumping of veteran skilled actors, no voices rallying the troops against the infantile cartoonish plots now rampant on nearly all of the soaps. Now, soaps were being accepted as being nothing more than trivial cartoon-like entities and Hinsey led the way in pandering only to the network execs and hack writers who wanted to dumb down and debase the entire genre as being no more worthy than bad Jerry Springer episodes.
    MAYBE with a new person in charge of Soap Opera Digest/Weekly ongoing respect for the genre will be seen weekly as well as respect for the legion of intelligent soap fans who still have hope that the genre can be restored to some semblance of intelligent and provocative tv programming like it was until about a decade ago.

    Marlena says: I have no idea what will happen over at the magazines now, but I did subtitle this website Soap Opera For The Thinking Fans for a reason. Marlena welcomes all intellgient soap fans here, and is so pleased to have heard from hundreds of them by letter since we debuted late last year.

    Marlenadelacroix.com is THE site for intelligent, experienced, professional soap criticism!

  21. Liz V says:

    Marlena, I will forever be grateful to both you and Mimi Torchin for printing my letters in the early 90s, when I was a 14 year old aspiring soap journalist. Soaps and writing were my biggest passion then, but I had no one in my life at the time to encourage me EXCEPT for the two of you. As the years passed (and how quickly they did!!) my life went in a different direction, but still remember with fond nostalgia how exciting it was to read SOW…how I anticipated each new issue, and dreamed of someday writing for such a great magazine.

    It is so sad that the integrity of soap journalism has declined just as badly as the soaps themselves did. I have not read any of the magazines in well over a decade, and only found my way back to soaps a few years ago. I read the Jossip thread with horror, but was not surprised to hear that the people responsible for SOWs decline were such horrible, corrupt human beings.

    I am glad that you are still writing, and on your own terms! I hope you continue to do so in the years to come. Reading your column online is much like hearing from an old friend.

    Marlena says: Hi, sweetie, of course I remember you! So glad to hear from you again, and I’m so happy you are reading this column. What direction in life did you go in instead? I’d love to hear all about it. XXXOOO

  22. Liz says:

    Thank you for your kind words. I know for a fact how unkind the likes of Higley and JFP were to Robin Strasser and it was truly heartbreaking. It wasn’t very good for OLTL either, IMHO. Robin Strasser is a true diva of daytime, in the best way possible. She loves the genre, she loves her fans and she always gives us her best. She’s a class act all the way and because of her and many times in spite of the writing, Dorian is absolutely fascinating. .

    If we had more Robin Strassers and Marlena De Lacroixs in daytime, daytime would be at least a little better off. I too am heartened that Carlivati adores Robin, because I adore her too.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. Daytime is in some sad shape these days. Perhaps, if more people who respect and love the genre spoke up, it would be in better shape. JMHO, of course

    Marlena says: Merci beaucoups again, from one ardent Strasser fan to another!

  23. Cindy says:

    Marlena,

    It is refreshing that you still think of soap mags and writers in terms of journalism. I feel that the craft of soap opera writing has lost much of its professionalism and that if those engaged in the business would set higher standards for themselves and the craft, the soap business would be better for it. Like someone else said, some of the piling on with Hinsey became uncomfortable. I feel your comments were well-done. I have a question, do you often think of having to face your journalism students when you write your columns? I am a university professor and believe college students have a way of keeping people honest.

    On the overall topic of soap journalism and soaps in general. I believe that up until recently, the change in opinion about soaps and the approach to soaps have been slow and steady. I think that is changing. I think shifts in how we watch soaps, the nature of soaps and how soaps are reported is soon to be quick. Until you write about the future of soaps, I’ll keep my comments to the topic of journalism. I think we are going to see more and more sites like these that emerge as the “soap media.” I think soaps are going to develop as a bit of niche market and the way they are reported will reflect that niche.

    Marlena says: Great to hear from a fellow academic! You are right, students do keep you honest. A decade ago, I had one of daytime’s most beloved actresses come to my class for a group interview. I adored her! Well, half the papers came back declaring her a big phony. I was aghast! A few years later, she stopped talking to me because I had written her a bad review in a new role (or roles). I realized my students had been right!

    There are many new soap blogs now, so I guess that’s “soap media.” But with the terrible ratings, very sadly there might not be much of a future for the genre or its accompanying media. I love soaps and my blog so I very much hope there is!

  24. Steve says:

    Thank you, Marlena, for finally weighing in on this subject!

    I was a devoted SOW subscriber from 1989-2001. SOW was the first and only soap publication that treated us fans as the intelligent, informed viewers that we are. It was painful to try to get through it without Mimi in charge and I canceled my subscription when your column disappeared. I knew Carolyn Hinsey was a bad editor and barely had a grasp of basic English in her columns both in SOD & SOW, but to hear, or more accurately read, about her treatment of her staff just makes me disrespect her even more. I just hope the soap magazines can be salvaged since imo they used to be an invaluable asset to the genre.

  25. Cherry Ames says:

    My goodness! Who knew that behind the scenes of the magazines these kinds of things were happening? (Of course, reading about Anna Wintaur at Vogue paved the way so I have no illusions about the nasty politics in so many jobs/professions). Sounds like Carolyn was a real nightmare. Why in the world did she get the position and why on earth did it take so long for all of these things to come out and for her to be let go? And was the real reason “budget concerns”? Inquiring minds and all …

    I bought the occasional copy of SOW and SOD up until the past 3 or 4 years as no stores (at least where I shop at in my town of about half a million pop.) stock the magazines. What a change from my days as a pre-teen, teen and young adult soap fan.

    I loved Dueling Diva’s and Critical Condition. Respectful and thoughtful commentary –the sort we Thinking Fans were discussing with our friends.

    However, with the internet, I can read your blog and We Love Soaps and Daytime Confidential-among others. So many to read — so little time.

    And many of the stars give interviews to the online venues. And then, of course, for truthiness to the max, I can read Erika Slezak’s newsletter and listen to Robin Strasser’s hotline recording weekly. Things I learned recently: Robin is unhappy with not working much and the fact that there has been little fallout or followup to the BE takeover. And her dog Scooter is terminally ill. Erika Slezak hopes Tess is gone when Viki returns because her being unaware that Jess is now Tess makes her look stupid. And that her son is at school (Cambridge?) in England and she loves working with her new leading man.

    Lots of the stars have web sites in which they answer fan questions (Easton) or talk with fans (Kassie DP). So the magazines are really , dare I say, an anachronism? I think, in future, soaps will be online with online commentary. Looks like Carolyn Hinsey finally met her Waterloo. Cheers to the good guys!

    Marlena says: She was fired! Don’t believe the journalists who spread the disinformation that it was “budget reasons” just so they could continue to pucker up! With all respect to the poor kids still at the magazines, I too believe soap mags are yesterday’s news. New soap blogs seem to blossom daily, which is fine, but it’s important to be a discerning reader.

  26. Gene says:

    Hi, Marlena, I’ve been on reading your site for some time and I know that you are a writer and heard you on In the Zone radio, but I didn’t know you were a writer for the Weekly. I do believe that the soaps mags have gotten to the point of non journalism and stuff that doesn’t make the industry better than what it is. Now we know what is going on in the industry and who is controlling what to print and say in the mags. I feel that the industry needs to be critical and look with a good eye at what is working and what needs to be fixed. I like your opinions about the state of the industry and what needs to be explored. I hope for more soap journalism that also writes about what the genre needs to do to bring fan interest back to daytime.

  27. Vince says:

    While I read your blog every week, Marlena, this is my first response on this site, as you know. I want to publicly tell you that wrote a brilliant, honest, and thought-provoking take on this situation.

    As others have written, I, too, discovered SOW around its inception, and became practically infatuated by it! Your column is what primarily drew me in, and it was the section I would turn to first. I couldn’t wait to read it every week! As a young male, I was somewhat embarrased to purchase a soap magazine at first, and would quickly hand it face-down to the cashier hoping that no one else around me would notice. However, I quickly came to appreciate and respect SOW so much that I became proud to purchase it, and wanted others to see that I was reading an excellent, sophisticated, intelligent publication. I have not purchased a copy since you and Mimi left. I also know there will never be a magazine like SOW during its glory days!

    This blog has definitely made up for that. Thanks for your terrific work, and for entertaining and informing so many people over the years. You are the best!!

    Marlena says: Vince, I was so happy to meet you in the SOW years, and you’ve been a great friend and a sweetheart ever since! You are the best! Thanks for your kind words on the latest column, which as I may have said, was really hard to write.

  28. Dana (Aka: MellieBabi) says:

    Marlena,

    I am so glad that you were of sound mind to leave SPW when you did. I too have been reading and following you and Mimi since I can remember.

    As the other poster said, it was your column that made me a Weekly reader from the beginning; I have to admit, like others, also, didn’t buy it at first because of the size, format and look … I thought it was like The Globe (if I gave it a thought, at all, I guess).

    I was a reader of Mimi’s since her Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down column in SOD … and all or anything I could find with yours or her name on it! In either magazine.

    I read Afternoon TV, Daytime TV, Blah Blah w/ Rona Barrett, etc.

    As I once told Mimi, I used to raid the “boxes” once they made their way into the house and down to the basement … that is the cardboard boxes, as my Mother called them … Chicken Boxes.

    They were waxed and thick, and chock full of treasures that she bid on at auctions, without knowing what was in them (the boxes). Always a treasure! Filled with Afternoon TV and other mags of all sizes. These collections were from estate sales of older women who had saved them. Well, I was HOOKED! I watched Days, AW and a little of ATWT w/ my Mom.

    I switched to ABC the winter my first child was born — Nov. 1982. The gals at the ranch, my boss lady and her sister, watched ABC. The sister, the real fan, loved OLTL and L and L on GH.

    Anyway, I began to read the SPW and Digest heavily once the my oldest started kindergarten. I was a high school dropout but the magazines piqued my desire to learn more, understand more, and appreciate more, especially the styles and auras of other women, particularly professional career women. I craved the intellectual stimulation, and always wanted to go back to school and attempted to start my GED, but hubby was always on the road working, or too possessive to let me learn or step outside his comfort zone for me.

    Anyway, for probably 11 years, my magazines (and beer and marijuana, LOL) filled the void that was unquenchable, and which my kids, my work and my husband just couldn’t satisfy.

    From 1994 to 1996 I wasn’t reading them at all or watching, or really even aware of anything, 1994 my husband was murdered.

    So anyway, in about 1995 I started GED, passed, started college and working and trying to get sober, and lost track of soaps and the magazines (too much reading to do for classes).

    But I got interested again (in Daytime) in about 1998 or 1999, and was all into reading SPW and SOD again.

    I was trying to catch up on the storylines when I could, catching episodes and buying the magazines at least once a month! After a while I bought SPW subscriptions, and was HOOKED on SPW! It was as important as milk and bread on my list!

    As soon as I was content in reading my magazines on the weekends, and getting comfortable in my own skin again, reading SPW and loving it … BOOM!

    One day I set my pillows up, got in the covers, adjusted the lamp like always, with my TV remote in one hand and my drink on the night stand (water or Pepsi), I opened that magazine up, flipped to (usually PG 28, if I remember right) and POOF! your turbaned head was gone, I couldn’t find you!!

    I became completely disinterested … and Mimi’s name was just gone … if I remember right, the credits were just gone. Again, if I remember right Carolyn didn’t show up in the credits or columns, for a while.

    But one thing was sure: MIMI was not running it anymore. Man oh man, I felt abandoned! I didn’t rush to buy it anymore. I always thought, and still do on occasion … habit I guess … that you, Marlena De Lacroix and Mimi Torchin, are the ONE and THE SAME writer/editor/contributor!

    And as far as Digest, opening that cover, I remember thinking, who the hell is this lady? I’ve never read her stuff, when that picture of Lynn Leahy (sitting in a chair, I think) popped up on the inside cover. Still thinking, really have no idea where this woman came from, I don’t remember reading her.And Carolyn, well I just plain didn’t like her writing, so I skipped over her stuff. I hated a lot of the changes and missed the genuine coverages.

    Athough the covering of night time shows bothered me, what mostly what turned me off was that there weren’t any more one-on-one interviews with stars and others at the studio. Sure there was some PR approved lame statements and questions, but no more genuine articles.

    They quit doing genuine photo shoots where the actors came to the offices or you guys went to their studios and shot several sequences with actors for the covers, boasting the hot triangles and with juicy tidbits and teases refering to upcoming storylines, not SPOILERS, just really intriguing teasers …

    Of course I loved the occasional dirt and to hear who was dating, getting married, may quit, just had a baby, etc. The magazines were IT! For Daytime (no internet until about 1998,for daytime anyway).

    LOL, as silly as it sounds with the goings on at SPW, the Jossip.com thread, and the state of daytime, and such, I feel like someone just DIED!

    Me feeling like someone just died has to be due to the fact that I was fired on July 18th and am about to be stir crazy, because I just read that damn jossip.com thread that took me three days straight!

    My firing was due to a situation just like what has went on at SPW offices for years! Only I lasted one year in my miserable situation.

    My story got long, but I wanted to post a hello to you and shout out to a few others (if still reading this stuff) I miss a lot, aka Mimi!

    Love Baby!

    Dana

    Marlena says: Of course Dana, I recognize your name from years and years ago, and I am so happy you continue to read me here at my site! But Mimi and I are two different people, let me assure you! I haven’t seen her in a very long time.

    Anyway, it makes me feel really good that you got so much enjoyment out of the magazines and that we made you want to study and learn. No one has ever said that to me about a soap opera magazine! I also love hearing your life story. I’m sorry about you losing your job. It’s happened to me! That’s how I became a freelance writer in the 80s. You can usually turn it around into something good as I did.

    So glad you were one of the first of Marlena’s Thinking Fans! Think of this site, Dana, as your soap opera home!

  29. Dale says:

    Marlena, I am sorry to be late in chiming in on the SOW situation! But here I am!

    Like many have already posted, I LOVED SOW. I was in from the very first issue (Patch and Marina from DOOL graced the cover!). What a classy and intelligent magazine it was – and not afraid to dole out the constructive feedback to the shows when they deserved it! Dear Marlena, like others, your Critical Condition column was my primary reason for buying SOW. Every week, I anxiously flipped to your column to see what you had to say about OLTL and GL (my faves!). You always made me laugh, or growl, or think. I learned a lot about the shows that I did not watch from your columns, too!

    What a sad day indeed when I rushed to your usual place in the magazine and found (another name)instead of you. I immediately knew something fishy was up and of course it was. That wonderful, insightful, crafty magazine turned into a rag before my very eyes.

    I have told you before, privately, that I kept ALL of your columns that pertained to OLTL, and my friend David has all of your GL columns still intact! We never forgot about you! When I discovered your site last year, I was over the moon! I love what you and your associates write about and I love reading the comments from all the Thinking Fans! Promise you will never leave us again….we, and the soap world need you!

    Marlena says: Wow, Dale, now I feel like Channing/Streisand at the end of the big “Hello Dolly” restaurant production number. You are very sweet! And you have all my OLTL columns? Wow! That’s a lot — I always used to have ton of things to say on THAT show! Anyway, fans like you and David makes Marlena’s on-line life worth living! For the long run, darling!

  30. MD says:

    I’d like to think (hope!) that blogs like yours will help to usher in a new generation of serialized storytelling.

    What I love about this newish crop of intelligently and wittily written soap blogs is the notion that we fans and professionals alike are taking the future (and the very vital critique of the current situation) of soaps into our own lathered hands.

    Similarly, creators of Internet soaps/web series such as Imaginary Bitches (which I have yet to watch, but hear is quite good) are unfettered by networks, advertisers, et cetera, and have the creative freedom to produce entertaining webisodes on their own terms. They may not have huge budgets, but neither do many of the soaps these days. I know film students who could produce Guiding Light in its current form, and I say that with optimism rather than condescension. I think that’s wonderful because if you can match those cost-effective filming techniques with some of the young brilliant minds of up and coming writers (imagine Gina Gionfriddo at the helm of serial), there’s no reason why soaps as we once knew and loved them can’t come back from the dead. Who cares if they aren’t on one of the big networks or if they don’t look the way they once did or if perhaps we’ll watch them on a computer monitor?? If the Internet keeps going in the direction we all know it’s going, our computer monitors and TV screens will most likely be the same flat panel.

    What has happened to soaps and the soap press is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less disgusting. What I’ve always liked about you, Marlena, is the sense that you truly love the medium you write for and you are happy to be YOU, a fan at heart who gets paid to do something that she loves. Soaps were never a “pit stop” for you, or a chance to rub elbows (among other things) with the stars you so desperately wish you were one of. Not to say that getting the chance to interview Agnes Nixon for all of posterity’s sake was like reading off your order at the deli counter, but you get what I’m saying. The events that have recently come to light, a whole regime of self-gratifying bastardization of a genre that was once so enjoyable … it’s sickening. And as much as I’d like to deny the offenders of their “power,” I have to admit that I find it rather heartbreaking. We legacy soap fans who have for years defended the medium we, our parents, our grandparents, and so on, have so thoroughly enjoyed really don’t have much to defend these days.

    P.S. Marlena, how long have you been at MMC? Years ago, a professor held a soap symposium with Richard Culliton, Courtney Simon, and Marj Dusay.

    Marlena says: First off, I do love soaps and thank you for knowing that is the bottom line for me. Hey, I’ve done a lot of other things (write about primetime and cable, teach high school and college) but I always come back to writing about this medium. Like you, I am a legacy fan. As a soap interviewer, I got to meet so many interesting people in this field. Interviewing Agnes (who is the most incredible person) was just one of them. I always favored talking to the backstage creative people perhaps cause I am a creative person and I’m very shy around actors. Making an actor your friend is unprofessional.

    New voices — bloggers — in soaps are great! My only quibble is that I wish they’d learn some basic journalistic rules such as: have facts and rumors confirmed by official sources, treat all sources equally, a reporter is not a cheerleader. All these rules are based on keeping things fair. If you are going to write opinion, then state it’s your opinion. If you have worked or work on a soap, don’t pose as a neutral journalist or a reporter. Being part of the story you are reporting unfairly shades your veracity. (OK, I admit I was very peripherally involved in the Hinsey/SOW story — seven years ago!)

    I’m not as familiar with the new on-line soaps as I should be. (I need a better computer!) But I’m convinced the internet is at least the future of soap reporting, if not all soaps.

    I have been at Marymount a year and a half but I didn’t know about the symposium. Someday I would like to teach a class in soaps as my friend Sam Ford did this spring at MIT.

  31. Summer says:

    Thanks for this column, Marlena.

    I loved your SOW columns, and to this day I still check the seat pocket on any plane I get on for a soap script like you found on vacation many moons ago — no luck yet!

    I’m pretty much through with daytime (although I watch “Ryan’s Hope” on Soapnet), thanks to Brian Frons’ reign of terror and what it’s done to my beloved AMC. It’s better to move on than to continue watching a show where Tad’s a murderer, kidnappers = love, and Dixie’s dead-dead by poisoned pancakes (18 years of waiting down the drain! Sob!).

    I’m sorry that you were one of the people beaten on by Carolyn Hinsey et. al. I always have had such respect for you and Mimi.

    I hope your annee gets better.

    Summer

    Marlena says: Wow! Can’t believe you remember that I found a script on my way to Cancun’s Club Fred — that was in 1997, just before I met my husband Moose! I had totally forgotten that! I am so impressed and warmed that you recall that. BTW, no one beat me! I beat the “new” SOW, by leaving as fast I did! I missed all the years of misery suffered by the editors on staff. Summer, you are very sweet!

  32. David says:

    Marlena/Connie..You and Mimi Torchin are the two shining examples of soap opera journalism. I bought the very first issue of Soap Opera Weekly when I was in college, and was instantly hooked by its fairness, intelligence, and top-notch art direction. Believe me, I got plenty of flack from my friends for reading a “soap mag”!

    Even though AMC was (and is, even now in its diminished state) “my” soap, I would read the articles covering other shows because it was just all so damn well written! Each issue had features, critiques, and interviews that not only made me proud to be a soap opera fan, but a reader of “soap mags” as well! I even had a couple of letters published over the years. I lost interest in SOW around the time most of us did. It just became at best, ordinary, or at worst, mean-spirited.

    I may have not ever succeeded in my dream to be All My Children’s headwriter — even though I know I could have done a better job than the last couple of regimes — my love for soaps as a medium has never died. I am thrilled that you have this blog and are still committed to making all of us soap fans a little smarter about the shows we watch.

    Marlena says: Darling David, thanks for the memories!

  33. esther says:

    Great column! You’re handling Hinseygate very well. My prayers are with you and your mom (and Moose!), as you know.

  34. Giada says:

    Dear Marlena,

    Thank-you for sharing your experience regarding SPW and for being so collected in your recalling events that I’m sure must have been very painful and must still rankle a little. You are an example to all of us. Leaving a magazine you have dedicated your life, energies and reputation and seeing it deteriorate before everybody’s very eyes must be disheartening and unfair.

    I must echo the above posts in saying that your column was one of the main reasons why I subscribed to SPW many years ago. Once in a while Weekly asked readers to answer a questionnaire on the features we liked best and your column was always my answer. :o )
    Reading you elevated me as a viewer, and, being now a journalist myself, I can say I learned a lot from you. You were always reasoned, deep, literate… How I loved your theatre references, and how curious I was about your true identity. I remember there were times when someone speculated on whether you were a man! LOL

    Being in Italy, I had no chance of buying a single issue of Soap Opera Weekly, subscribing was the only way of having it. A friend gave me an issue or two bought at a nearby American military base, and I knew I had to have all the issues. I still have a subscription, for the reason that I still cannot have access to single issues, but I have been very displeased with it for a VERY long time. I used to save Weeklys as relics. Nowadays I skim through them, barely read anything and put them in the paper recycling bin.

    Back in the days, you and Mimi made me proud about being a soap viewer and “defender” (as silly as this word sounds). It is my understanding that Mimi has a fulfilling established career as a photographer now. In an interview she recently did for the Daytime Confidential podcast she says she would like to go back to writing about soaps, but laments the complete lack of interest in hiring professional soap reviewers. No one seems interested in paying for them. Sad.

    The only time I was able to appreciate Carolyn Hinsey was when she defended her role as a professional critic as being different from being a simple soap watcher. I respected that and how she put it down. I otherwise have always had a bad opinion about her writing. Her column in SOD is useless and shabby, and I stopped reading it a long time ago. A list of quotes you find funny criticism is not. I call it being lazy. As a person I don’t know her, but the couple of times I saw her on a screen expressing her views, I thought she was arrogant, bossy and too aggressive. So, I can’t say I cheered when I’ve heard she lost her job at SPW, but I came close.

    Sorry for being so long. Good luck to your mom (I’ll keep her in my thoughts) and take care of yourself and you teeth – I know, even from experience, that they can be very painful.

    Your column is a welcome point of reference and a happy island. I’m very happy to have you online.

    :o ) Giada

    Marlena says: Oh Giada, you have been such a special friend to me since I first went on line nearly two years ago! I ALWAYS enjoy hearing from you. Especially because I am Italian and love Italy. As far as there being a lack of soap critics jobs out there, I advise all to do as I do: create your own!

    And LOL, Marlena was NEVER a man!!!!

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