• Steven Heller

When Magazines Had Balls


This is a fact: Magazines once had balls and Ralph Ginzburg, the only American publisher to be imprisoned in a Federal pen for publishing a magazine (Eros to be precise), was the one who shined them to a bright finish. One of his most ballsy magazines was Fact, designed by Herb Lubalin, and devoted to peeling away the facades on many corporations, politicians, and religious institutions. And as you can see from the covers above and below, it was smartly designed without superfluous conceits.

The “Goldwater” issue below prompted a libel lawsuit from the conservative senator and presidential candidate. Ginzburg, an astute advertising-man-turned-journalist, could always produce recorded “fact” to support his controversial claims. But this time he erred. A federal jury awarded Goldwater $1 in compensatory damages (indicating his reputation had not really been harmed) and $75,000 in punitive damages, to punish Ginzburg and the magazine for being reckless.

Why revisit Fact now? As magazines increasingly fall by the wayside, leaving what’s left, mostly in a neutered state, it’s good to remember that hard-hitting, issues-oriented journalism was possible when an iconoclast took the lead.

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →

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