AARP The Magazine captured its first-ever National Magazine Award Thursday, taking the industry’s top prize in the interactive feature category for a story on a seminal year for boomers, “1968: The Year That Rocked Our World.”
The award was presented by the American Society of Magazine Editors at a New York gala that celebrated 26 winners in 20 categories and drew 1,707 entries from more than 350 print and online magazines.
In making the award, ASME said AARP’s feature “immerses visitors in the sights, sounds and events of a transformational American moment. Using an innovative timeline format with embedded videos, audio clips, photographs, pop culture quizzes and contemporary interviews with some of the major names of the time, AARP creates a 360-degree experience of the news, sports, music, and history-making moments—public and private—of that watershed year.”
The feature evoked the sights and sounds of a year most of 50-plus America remembers with both joy and sorrow. It hit the highlights of the year, including the Civil Rights Act, Vietnam’s My Lai massacre, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, President Nixon saying “sock it to me” on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, baseball’s Jim “Catfish” Hunter’s perfect game, hippie protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Apollo 8 astronauts reading the Old Testament from around the moon on Christmas Eve, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”
For each item, the website provided interactive features. For example, television footage of protesters being beaten and tear-gassed at the Chicago convention was complemented by new interviews with protester Tom Hayden, photographer Howard Bingham and political conservative David Keene. Music accompanied many components along with questions about each event. (What animal did Yippie Party leaders at the 1968 Democratic National Convention bring to Chicago to nominate for president? Answer: A pig.)
AARP The Magazine chose to chronicle 1968 some 40 years later because “it was such an important year for baby boomers,” said Cathy Ventura-Merkel, senior vice president of AARP Publications. “It was such a turning point for such a generation and everybody who lived through it.”
She said that contrary to stereotypes, between 75 and 85 percent of Americans ages 50 to 60 are online and tuned in to features like those presented by AARP The Magazine online.
“They really are out there using the Web. They are the fastest-growing segment on Facebook [the social networking site],” she said. “It does change the image of aging, which is what the magazine is all about.”
AARP The Magazine Editor Nancy Graham accepted the award at the ceremony. In her remarks, she recognized work by features editor Marilyn Milloy, online content producer Julie Feiner and former editor Steve Slon. Graham also noted that it is a stereotype buster for AARP The Magazine to win in a new media category.
Elaine S. Povich is a freelance writer who covers politics.