5 Defunct Magazines That Changed America

Do you remember a time in your life before listicles and puppy GIFs? If you're furrowing your brow trying to recall a pre-Buzzfeed era, it's okay to admit it—print is dying. Before they were laid to rest in a paper coffin, magazines like Spy and Life offered a unique view on society that Americans craved and gobbled up like Christmas ham. Whether they lost funding or were simply beaten out by the Internet, these five publications were vital pieces of literature that changed the nation and influenced the way we write. 

Spy (1986 - 1998) 

By combining satirical journalism with in-depth reporting, Spy took a snarky, more irreverent look at American life and gained notoriety as a magazine that no celebrity or politician was safe from. By taking jabs at George Bush, Donald Trump, and Bill Clinton—among many others—Spy was aggressive in its investigative reporting and was able to tear down notable public figures. 

Founded by Kurt Andersen and E. Graydon Carter from the Harvard Lampoon and Time, respectively, the wits behind Spy gave it momentum and character before its ultimate demise in the late '90s. 

LIFE (1883 - 2007)

The first incarnation of LIFE came out in 1883, before it ceased to be more than a century later. LIFE became a front-row seat to just that—life in America and beyond. With notable covers like the nurse in a sailor’s arms and wartime photos straight from the front lines, LIFE  told stories through brilliant photography and controversial articles.

Their roster of famous artists, writers, and photographers included Robert Capa, Ernest Hemingway, and Norman Rockwell, to name a few. After funding was cut, several more incarnations of the magazine made their rounds until April 20, 2007, when LIFE ended its print editions and lived solely online. 

Open City (1967 - 1969) 

Dying at the young age of two-years-old, Open City was a weekly underground newspaper published in Los Angeles that gained notoriety for its radical political beliefs and endorsement of psychedelic music. 

In 1968, Open City's founder was prosecuted on an obscenity charge for printing an image of a naked woman, followed by a second obscenity charge for a story about the sexual antics of an underage girl.

In its heyday, the magazine circulated 35,000 copies—which was largely because of Charles Bukowski column, "Notes of a Dirty Old Man." 

Puck (1871 - 1918) 

It wasn't easy being funny in America (or anywhere, for that matter) back in the early 20th century—however, Puck locked it down by being the first successful humor magazine in the U.S. with political satire, and full-color cartoons.

Running from 1871 to 1918, Puck reinforced American constitutional ideals while poking fun at famous political figures like James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and Theodore Roosevelt. 

New York Press (1988 - 2011)

Running during New York City's rebirth from crime-ridden hellhole into the place where the M&M Super-Store is, the New York Press was described as "a ratty, underground version of those early years at Esquire."

The Press covered everything from politics to entertainment, and had a column called "Lust Life," which featured stories from columnist Stephanie Sellars about sex as a bisexual polyamorist.

Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and believes, one day, that humans and apes will peacefully co-exist.