When my wife and I were in Colonial Williamsburg several years ago, we talked briefly to a store clerk about an unwanted change – the passing of a longtime pharmacy in the Market Square area near the William & Mary campus.
The pharmacy had an old-fashioned lunch counter that served up the best milkshakes and limeades we had ever tasted. Now it was gone.
As we lamented its replacement by a chain store, the clerk stiffened her spine and barked, “Change is good!” Her tone implied strongly that this was not debatable.
The whole raison d’etre of Colonial Williamsburg is to preserve the past faithfully. I was about to point out that not all change is good when my wife wisely nudged me toward the door. She saved me from what certainly would have devolved into folly.
But I thought about that clerk this past week when my wife received a notice that two of her favorite magazines – Country Woman and Country – had bitten the dust. No reason was given, just that we were receiving our last issues.
It felt like a couple of old friends had moved without explanation to somewhere you couldn’t even send a postcard.
My wife called Trusted Media Brands (TMB), the company that acquired Reiman Publications some time ago and was told that they were pulling the plug on many downhome magazines, including Reminisce, Country, Country Extra, Country Woman and Farm & Ranch.
Famous for its stunning photos and folksy articles, Country still had a circulation of 400,000. But apparently, it wasn’t profitable, or lucrative enough in the eyes of TMB’s executives.
And speaking of old friends, we experienced another loss, this time of trust. Reader’s Digest has been around since its founding 100 years ago in 1922 in upstate New York by DeWitt and Lila Bell Wallace. Its well-edited mix of humor, informative articles, puzzles, anecdotes, advice and real-life stories has made it a fixture in millions of homes, not to mention doctors’ and dentists’ offices.
It still has all that, but also something strangely out of place – a whiff of wokeism.
I first noticed it in the November 2022 issue, whose cover features “Hero Pets: Amazing Rescue Tales!” So far so good. But also advertised on the cover was “Siege at the Capitol.”
As you might have guessed, it’s an account of January 6, 2021, when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the building hoping to delay the counting of Electoral College votes. Drawn from Elizabeth Bartholomew’s book “Siege: An American Tragedy,” the story is told from the cops’ point of view.
The accounts are compelling. Unfortunately, the one-sided piece parrots the Democrats’ overblown narrative of the riot as an “insurrection.” And it just happened to come out while Democrats were airing their Jan. 6 committee show trial before the mid-term election.
Reader’s Digest has been known for decades for conservative content. I shrugged and hoped this was an aberration. But the very next month, the December/January edition arrived with a cover touting “Librarians UNDER ATTACK.”
Headlined inside was “Unexpected Casualties in the War on Books,” sourced from the New York Times. The piece vilifies parents who are trying to shield their children from sexually inappropriate content.
The article begins with a librarian in New Jersey who is “stunned” that parents objected at a school board meeting to “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer.”
“Both books, award winners with LGBTQ characters and frank depictions of sex, have been challenged around the country,” the article explains before giving a narrative straight from the leftist American Library Association. Librarians are shocked, shocked that a boy describing oral sex with men might upset parents. On page 95, the Digest showcases a tragic gay romance in its “RD List” of recommended movies.
I can only imagine what next month’s Digest will serve up. The chief content editor is Jason Buhrmester, who served a few years ago as editorial director of Playboy magazine. I am not making this up. Mr. Buhrmester seems to be a skilled editor. But this is not the kind of thing you’d expect to find on a Reader’s Digest editor’s resume.
By the way, for most of its life, Reader’s Digest had been headquartered in upstate New York, in Pleasantville and Chappaqua. Now the Reader’s Digest Association is in midtown Manhattan. It’s a division of — you guessed it – Trusted Media Brands.
Speaking of formerly trusted entities, since the Boy Scouts went “woke,” membership has plunged and they’ve declared bankruptcy. The “woke” Disney company has reported recent losses in the billions and has fired its CEO. Hallmark’s lurch into “woke” programming has viewers searching for wholesome alternatives like the Great American Family network. Colonial Williamsburg has been introducing politically correct themes.
Change is not always good. Once the temptation to “go woke” takes hold, old friends can go off the rails.
Let’s hope and pray they shake it off and return to their roots.
• Robert Knight is a columnist for The Washington Times. His new book “Crooked: What Really Happened in the 2020 Election and How to Stop the Fraud” (D. James Kennedy Ministries, September 2022) is available at his website roberthknight.com and at djkm.org/crooked.