A look inside Consumer Reports
Stromberg writes, “Consumer Reports’ first cover story, in May 1936, was a report on the difference between Grade A and Grade B milk. The magazine’s publishers — a group of consumer advocates who were fired from an existing group, called Consumers’ Research, for trying to unionize — found that the two types of milk were identical, in terms of both taste and nutrition, and that no one should pay the extra three cents per quart for Grade A.
“In the decades since, Consumer Reports has continued to serve as a distinct voice of modest, rational frugality. Most magazines have celebrities on their covers and hawk expensive new products on ads within. Consumer Reports explains why premium gas is a waste of money for most cars and puts bacteria-laced chicken breasts on its covers to warn customers. Instead of shilling for corporations, the magazine tries to convince you not to buy things you don’t actually need. Personified, it’s your penny-pinching uncle, the one who saves up hundreds of cans and bottles for the occasional trip to the recycling plant to get the deposits back.
“But the magazine also weighs in on a number of serious policy and health issues. After its Great Depression years as a shoestring operation (it mostly tested cheap products, like cereal, and borrowed cars because it didn’t have enough money to buy them), it grew significantly during the 1950s, with its rise coinciding with a broader surge of interest in consumer goods. During this era, it conducted some of the first reporting on the importance of seat belts and the dangers of cigarettes, contributing to the push for government regulation in both areas — the Surgeon General’s landmark 1964 smoking report cited Consumer Reports research. The magazine’s association with labor leaders, meanwhile, temporarily landed it on a list of “subversive” organizations compiled by the House Un-American Activities Committee.”
Read more here.