Writing at the awesome site The Mary Sue, Teresa Jusino discusses the implications of Condé Nast’s decision to stop printing Teen Vogue and make it online only. This change happened in the midst of major layoffs and restructuring at Condé Nast, and is generally being framed as, in Jusino’s words: “Makes sense, right? After all, aren’t all kids on their phones all day anyway?”
However, it’s far too easy for those of us on the “kids are on their phones all day” side of the digital divide to forget that the divide exists. Here’s Jusino:
I used to mentor for an organization called WriteGirl in Los Angeles, which empowers underserved teen girls through the written word. It’s an amazing organization that helps girls find their voices, ensures they graduate high school and go to college, no matter their circumstances. What often struck me was that many of the girls were difficult to reach…because they didn’t have cell phones. They just couldn’t afford them. So, if they were working one of two part-time jobs that they often had to help their families out financially, in addition to going to school, and weren’t home to receive a call on a landline, you couldn’t speak with them at all.
She goes on to break down which print publications Condé Nast is keeping (hint: most of them aren’t directed at young people, or any other group with generally less money). Architectural Digest, for example, is losing one issue a year (from 12 to 11), while Teen Vogue is losing its entire annual budget of four issues. (Later in the article, Jusino also reveals some of the ways that Condé Nast ghosts on and doesn’t pay its freelancers–especially freelancers of color–including Jusino herself). There’s never any excuse for that.
Where this topic intersects with Laurie’s and my core agenda is that the print edition of Teen Vogue, under the direction of Elaine Welteroth (above), has become more political, and more inclusive, including a wonderful array of teens of color on the covers. The cover image at the top of the blog is one of many I could have chosen.
Without a print edition, even teens who read the magazine online will not get the same impact of the covers. With a print edition, teens who never pick up an issue still have the opportunity to see themselves, and other interesting teens who don’t look like every other conventional blonde teen idol–on newstands, on copies left on public transit, at their friends’ homes. Much has been written about how online searching is different from physical research, and much of it is a kind of “viewing with alarm” fear about how our brains are changing. But in this case, I’m just saying that print magazine covers simply get more places, and are seen by more random people, than online front pages.
If you believe, as Laurie and I do, that seeing yourself and people like you is a key factor in learning to accept your body, and your rightful place in the world, the loss of Teen Vogue covers alone, even if there was nothing else of value in the magazine is a loss indeed.
Thanks to supergee for the pointer.