Soaps and sources

A lovely library magazine rack – unlikely to feature Soap Opera Digest.

Dedicated soap fans can be real pros at discussions – from the old RATSC boards at Google to the controversial boards at Television Without Pity and beyond, there always seems to be discussion spots for soaps (classic and current).

There are a few really popular ones out there, especially at some of the bigger soap blogs and news sites.

I still occasionally check out an LGBT themed message board I discovered a few years back, when I saw a lot of visitors to this blog from that site.

It often has a dedicated thread related to P&G shows, and a few weeks back, one poster was arguing with another about a claim neither could substantiate.

“Where are your sources?” the accuser asked.

That particular person was a bit of an ass about their argument, and didn’t endear themselves to any of us reading the discussion.

But the whole thing got me thinking about how hard it is to substantiate things that we’ve seen and heard.

I read every copy of Soap Opera Weekly that was ever published, from first to last, and almost every copy of Digest from around 1985 or so until a few years after GL and ATWT ended.

But there is no comprehensive online archive of either magazine. Some Tumblr accounts exist that share photos or covers, sure. A few transcripts of articles are out there, but it is a tiny number compared to the number published.

The kindest thing I can say about Digest’s existing website is that, well, it’s anemic. (To be fair, Digest is likely just trying to keep the doors open and the presses running, so it can’t take on a project like archiving its entire existence.)

I think there may be a small, small handful of libraries that carry some span of published issues, some kind of archive of one of those magazines, but they are few and far between.

Years ago, before I ever wrote for the Marlena blog or posted here, I read a piece in Digest about a writer at GL. It was a bit (in one of those middle of the magazine “roundup” type interviews) where he shared a small fact about his parents and their family tree.

That fact was, I thought, an interesting one to know based on a story GL had playing out at that time, and so I tried to add it to Wikipedia. But one of the editors there (also a soap fan) refused to allow its addition.

I understand why – I had no verifiable source. And I didn’t even have an issue number or approximate time frame to narrow down in locating the issue.

“Hello, Digest Back Issues? Can I borrow six months’ worth of…..Hello? Hello?”

Yeah, not happening.

I’m sure there are sources from private collectors and a library here and there. It’s a topic I should discuss with a few of the wise soap academics I know when I get a chance.

But the fleeting, temporary nature of a lot of the soap publications goes hand in hand, I suppose, with the way the suits at the networks saw soaps – fleeting, temporary space fillers.

2 thoughts on “Soaps and sources

  1. One of my favorite topics! Definitely only a handful of libraries have these. Bowling Green State U has the most comprehensive collection. I helped fill out what they had with the collection I had been given. Likely they have a full or nearly full array of Soap Opera Weekly now! Michigan State has a bunch, the Library of Congress has some, but on the whole soap mags are very poorly preserved in official archives. So frustrating.

    Thanka Elana! Might have to make a trip to Bowling Green at some point!

  2. the problem is even worse with what’s been posted online over the years. at least with the magazines, there’s the possibility (perhaps even likelihood) that someone somewhere has a stash in their basement or attic. but so much of what’s been posted online over the years is just gone.

    in my work, i often referenced comments from sites like television without pity, media domain, and snark weighs (to name a few). but now they’ve disappeared into the internet netherworld. consider what that will mean for future historians of soap opera.

    Very true, Lynn. Some of those things have had a short life span, and the Internet Wayback Machine also has its limits.

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