Media Matter Nick Thomas
My heart goes out to Elizabeth Day. who wrote the Sunday Telegraph story about Cosmopolitan's appointment of a spirituality editor, for she was unable to get a quote from the newly appointed editrix herself. Instead she had to tell us that Hannah Borno was enjoying a period of seclusion and meditation, and was unavailable for comment.
Funnily enough, on Sunday morning I was enjoying a period of seclusion and meditation myself, and was unavailable for comment until I dragged myself out for some coffee and a trawl through the papers.
The news that the Labour Party had fixed "The Big Conversation" was no surprise, but the idea of Cosmo actually addressing the cosmos was a bit of a shock. Apparently the world's biggest-selling women's magazine (argue about definitions if you will) is to introduce a section addressing the spiritual needs and quests of its readership, and has chosen to edit this adventure a woman whose principal qualification is having run something called a "psychic shop" while she was at Oxford.
Let's not be cheap about this. "Useless Girly Hack gets Job Shock" is not the avenue I wish to pursue. The fact that Cosmo, a seriously commercial and successful brand, should find it necessary to cash in on the need of its readers for some kind of spiritual fulfilment is something that should make us all sit up and take notice. Our priests should be out there in Harvey Nick's, and all its downmarket imitators, spreading the Word to women with more credit rating than sense, telling them that there is more to life than the latest lingerie line, indeed that there is more to life than life itself. Grab your bags, then cortie down to the Oratory! It's fun!
And just think: "Dear Cosmo, I have never fully understood the difference between transubstantion and consubstantiation. Hannah, can you help?"
But of course that is not even what Cosmo is doing. It is already clear that the new section will address, among other things, Buddhism (undoubtedly in a way that will be grossly offensive to Buddhists) and "the reliability of mediums". In other words it is going to put serious religion in the same box of fads as Scientology, kick boxing and the Atkins Diet, as though true faith were just another way for pampered prats to get through their day, as all the pampered prats who profess atheism constantly claim.
If, as the editrix-in-chief of Cosmo, Lorraine Candy, claims, "women are searching for something deeper", they are surely searching for something deeper than Cosmo. This cynical exercise in the exploitation of the questing soul within the unthinking magazine buyer must be misconceived, for it is not exactly unknown for glamorous career women to hold, seriously and intelligently, to a religious faith: the name of our own former editrix, Cristina Odone, rather springs to mind.
But if they want to go down that road, why not? They are going to do a religion and spirituality column: but the women who really want "something deeper" should start reading The Catholic Herald instead. And, in a spirit of journalistic ecumenism, we'll start a column on sex tips for Catholic girls, with maybe a bit of chaste and tasteful fashion photography on the side.
By the way, in case you hadn't heard, we're due for a redesign in the New Year, and I'm going to be our new sex and fashion editor, with extra responsibility for a whole bunch of other things I know nothing about. This is a happening newspaper. We can't be left behind, can we?