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Meet Print's New Politicos

Lifestyle magazines are getting serious about their presidential election coverage

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Time, Newsweek, The Nation: These are the kinds of magazines where political junkies expect to find election news. But at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, delegates rubbed elbows with reporters from magazines known less for their election coverage than for forecasting fashion trends.

While GQ has always covered politics, the launch of the Death Race 2012 blog and @GQPolitics Twitter feed earlier this year signaled the start of a greater day-to-day involvement in the issues. While its writers come with impressive resumes—lead correspondent Marin Cogan came from Politico, while Reid Cherlin was an Obama White House spokesman—the tone is anything but inside baseball.

“We wanted to publish the stories that reporters talk about at the bar after an event,” said GQ senior editor Mark Lotto, a New York Times alum. “This was a real opportunity for us to do the kind of politics coverage that we’ve always done in the magazine in a more active and elastic way.”

According to Lotto, readers are clamoring for the kind of election coverage that magazines can provide. “People are so eager for narrative and ideas that will stick with them for longer than five minutes. They’re coming to us for context and authenticity.”

With women’s issues at the forefront of the 2012 conversation, women’s titles have also bumped up their political coverage beyond first lady cookie contests and feel-good interviews. “It’s impossible to open up a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing women’s issues being discussed,” said Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive. “There’s a lot of meat there for us to cover.”

This year, Glamour created a political Web vertical, Inspired, and current events blog, The Conversation. Marie Claire hired Nona Willis Aronowitz to lead its political coverage and had its first live political event. Seventeen has its Electionista blog.

Not everyone thinks this is necessarily a good idea (witness the knocks President Obama took over a recent Glamour interview), though Leive would obviously beg to differ. “For any candidate to address 51 percent of the voting population is not silly or fluffy—it’s good common sense,” she said.

Lifestyle magazines’ increased political involvement isn’t likely to end with the election. Joanna Coles, Cosmopolitan’s new editor in chief, fully expects Cosmo to be at the 2016 conventions. “And if Todd Akin, god forbid, gets elected, we’ll be tweeting about it every day,” Coles added.