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Teen Magazines Lack Substance This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Want to revive your wardrobe with the latest trends? Want to hook that hottie but not sure how? Looking for an entirely new you? Frankly, I’m not. What I am searching for is new literature. After two years of devotedly reading Seventeen magazine, I am tired of being instructed on how to use brown liner for my blue eyes and how to achieve a sunless tan. Scanning an article explaining how to steal celebrities’ swimsuits (not literally, mind you), I wondered whether any teen journalism has more substance.

There is a serious lack of magazines geared toward adolescents that deal with current affairs, politics, and social issues. With the options that exist today, if my peers were given the choice between an MTV special detailing Paris Hilton’s jail time and a news segment on crop shortages, the heiress would likely win their attention ... unless Brad Pitt was in the wheat field. Needless to say, entertainment stories and celebrity gossip rule the magazine world, as does fashion and beauty. However, there are practically no publishers who provide a teen magazine that deals with issues other than the latest trends.

I found a website that listed the 20 most popular teen magazines in America. Their brief descriptions were nauseatingly similar. Number one promises “information on fashion, beauty, boys, dating, celebrities.” The second one offers articles on “real issues - guys, beauty, fashion.” The synopsis of my dear Seventeen, ranking third, provides a nice change of wording but nothing more.

Teen male magazines have a basic formula as well. They tend to focus on a single hobby or interest such as technology, cars, or sports.

I was hard-pressed to find any teen journalism that does not adhere to this structure. I did find one: Canada’s Shameless. It focuses on women’s issues but is published only three times a year, and I have yet to find it in local stores.

It can be easily argued that the market for a nonconformist magazine is small - too small to risk a venture into a literary world without lipgloss and nail polish. However an adolescent-targeted current events publication would elicit an audience. Take a moment to observe a high school ethics or global issues class and it will become clear that students have more on their minds than hotel princesses.

I often hear my friends recounting a story that they perused in a parent’s edition of Canada’s Maclean’s or The Walrus. I have read Maclean’s with some interest but skipped half the articles due to their lack of relevance to my young adult world. Therein lies the problem. While there is a place for gossip and beauty magazines, as well as the occasional browse through Papa’s “grown-up” journals, there exists no in-between area that would appeal to average adolescents with a wide range of issues racking their developing minds.

Seventeen prides itself on being the “most popular magazine for the modern teenage girl.” Yet, it manages to capture only half of the teen universe. These publications fail to notice that adolescents are growing up in an adult world. We, therefore, concern ourselves with matters similar to those in adult journals.

What will grab teenagers’ attention is reading material that covers the entire spectrum of topics, from makeup to relationships to world affairs. The desired magazine is one that is written with the intention to be understood and enjoyed by my age group. It’s not for lack of interest that I skip the political articles in Maclean’s. I do so because, not having been given a chance to read up on the topic, I do not have enough background to understand the issues being discussed. The lack of teen journals that cover a variety of topics creates a vicious cycle. The less young people know about current events, the less likely they are to want to read about them.

It is surprising that the journalism community has not realized that producing magazines like these could help get teenagers interested and involved in world affairs. While politicians have observed the positive effects of other media on encouraging teen involvement in global issues, they have overlooked journalism.

As for publishing companies, they do not believe that topics like the environment and human rights will bring in the big bucks that the paparazzi pictures do. But isn’t there a profit to be made by educating the future generation of doctors, teachers, and world leaders about the issues affecting humankind? After all, we would like to know about the world we are inheriting - and it’s not coated in lipgloss.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 23 comments. Post your own now!

Ms. F said...
Nov. 21, 2008 at 3:31 am
This is great commentary, and I commend you on your knowledge seeking quest, Natascia. While it may be below your reading level, you may want to pick up a Scope Magazine. I imagine, though, that you will probably be publishing your own news source for young adults. There is a market, indeed.
 
handmedownlife said...
Sept. 23, 2008 at 12:26 am
I absolutely loved this. Your first paragraph was an amazing attention getter; I was hooked from that first line. I too have found myself realizing that Seventeen and Cosmo!Girl all print the same things in different with different words each month and gravitating towards TIME and Newsweek. So superficial and degrading these teen magazines are.
 
ElmoLover16 said...
Aug. 25, 2008 at 3:42 am
That was really well written...and I agree. I'm tired of picking up magazines at the store that are revolved around make-up and fashion. It makes us look not only uninformed and uncaring, but also ignorant.
 
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