Why Young Journalists Need to Read Rookie Mag’s Jane Pratt Interview

Olivia Hall/Rookie Mag

Olivia Hall/Rookie Mag

I had Rookie Mag’s recent interview with Jane Pratt sitting in my tabs for over a week before I decided to finally sit down and digest it last night. Because I’m an idiot who doesn’t recognize career-affirming advice when it’s staring me in the face from my laptop screen. For some context to my readers unfamiliar with the two subjects mentioned in the headline (glad that didn’t deter you from reading), Rookie Mag is an online mecca for teen girls founded by Tavi Gevinson who represents everything I wish I had the guts to be at her age (17). And Jane Pratt founded the groundbreaking women’s magazines Sassy and Jane before taking her talents to new media two years ago and starting xojane, which to me is one of the most important online resources to learn about, understand, and appreciate the female human experience ever created.

As a journalist in the, well, rookie years of my career, I’m constantly on the hunt for articles and interviews with journalists I’m impressed with or inspired by. I’ve read so many stories about Jane Pratt before but none have been as refreshing and enlightening as this one and, surprisingly, it’s only a Q&A. But Anaheed Alani, the editor who conducted this interview, is great as what she does and so her questions dig at the side of Jane Pratt we rarely get insight on: her life pre-Sassy as an up-and-coming editor with a passion for telling real-women stories in a world where those stories are often dismissed. Then again, most of the stories I read about women journalists like Jane are written by men, so I can’t be shocked when they focus more on her editing prowess rather than her rise to that notoriety.

You don’t have to like or even care about Jane Pratt but if you’re a young journalist, you need to read this interview and know how she got to where she is today. Or if you like to read success stories, then this one’s perfect for you too. I know from going to J-school and working in the field that getting an education in this industry goes far beyond a year or four’s worth of college credits. You need to do your research and figure out why you care about journalism. And that is why I urge young journalists, especially women, to read this interview.

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#HearstMagFront: My Thoughts

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Via People.com/Angela Pham

I know I said I’d stick to tweeting about media industry news, but I couldn’t contain my thoughts about this particular event to 140 characters so here we are. Two days ago Hearst Corporation, one of the leading magazine publishers, held what they branded as a “magazine Upfront.” Basically Hearst invited media buyers, advertisers, and current cover stars like  Vanessa Hudgens and Miranda Kerr (pictured above) to their NYC headquarters for a presentation on upcoming content. When I first heard the idea, I perceived it as some gimmicky scheme to attract new advertisers and try and one-up the competition. TV networks do their Upfronts for similar reasons. But I was thinking of it too simplistically; I just assumed it would be previews of next year’s big feature stories and a few cover teasers. Maybe one of the mags got a big exclusive on some high-profile trending story from this year and want to sell the corresponding ad pages ASAP. That completely misses the bigger picture, though, and rudely ignores all the steps Hearst Digital has taken over the last few months toward the future. For example:

So, here are three of the most exciting #HearstMagFront announcements:

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Download Vertical Floor Now!

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In my life updates, I promised to tell you more about my grad program’s capstone when it dropped. Well, as of midnight Vertical Floor’s September issue is officially available for download on the iTunes App store for the low, low price of $0.00. That’s right, it’s completely free (so no excuses)! But before I ask beg that you download, read, and tell every single person you know to do the same, it’s only right I give some background on what Vertical Floor’s all about and the story behind its creation.

Me and the rest of my MNO cohorts launched this magazine as a means to serve the parkour and freerunning communities. It all started with a tablet competition (my team’s mag proposal was a finalist!) to see which team in the entire Newhouse master’s program could come up with the best pitch for a tablet magazine to be made from scratch by my grad program. In their first round presentation, the group that presented what was formerly known as Tracer stressed the lack of media representation for a rapidly growing niche discipline known as parkour — so rapidly growing, in fact, the NYT recently covered it. Well, that point resonated with second round judges from Conde Nast, Tumblr, and the Atlantic and it went on to win the competition and became the subject that consumed our lives for six week.

The MNO program (minus a few students that chose the internship/30-page paper option) along with our advisors Professors Melissa Chessher, Aileen Gallagher, and Doug Stralher met in late May to sit down and really begin conceptualizing our magazine. What it would look like, the name, our audience, and most importantly, the stories we would tell. It isn’t easy to dive into a subject like parkour; not a single person in our class had actually ever practiced parkour or freerunning prior to capstone. I never even heard of parkour until the first round of the competition. It took hours upon hours, pretty much the whole six weeks, to really immerse ourselves in the world of parkour. So in case the NSA is wondering what’s up with the spike in parkour-related Google search queries mid-May to the end of June out of Syracuse, here’s your answer.

Now, for a more in-depth look at my role in making Vertical Floor.

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The State Of Women In Mags

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I came across the above study by FolioMag last week, but thought it would serve a greater purpose to share it with you all as we begin Women’s History Month. As you all know, I am a journalist. And as you all also (hopefully) know, I am a woman. It’s been a big couple weeks for women in media, and for all the wrong reasons.

I think it all started to go south when the Women’s Media Center released its annual report on women in U.S. media, which found that despite “new media” — this misleading implication that the Internet actually changed media — women are still not getting bylines. In other words, the work of female journalists isn’t getting published nearly as much as their male counterparts even though the platform for that work is larger than ever.

Then, there was this gem of a personal essay by Marin Cogan called “House of Cads,” in which she exposed the hypocrisy of sexual politics for female reporters in DC. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, and its sentiments were echoed perfectly by Ann Friedman and the woman behind “Said to Lady Journos.” If you haven’t stumbled upon that Tumblr yet, I urge you to do so now with the disclaimer that your blood will boil.

But back to mags.

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The Age of Sponsored Journalism

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Yesterday, The Atlantic came under immense scrutiny for publishing a story on the Church of Scientology’s alleged growth spurt in 2012. At first glance, it’s a headline that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. Look closer, and right above that unsuspicious headline is an eyesore in the form of a bright yellow box containing the words “Sponsored Content.” And therein lies the shock and dismay. How could a magazine as esteemed as The Atlantic publish an advertisement masquerading as journalism?

When I first caught wind of the controversy on Twitter, I was a bit taken aback. I won’t pretend like The Atlantic isn’t my favorite U.S. news magazine and a publication I aspire to see my byline in some day. I wear my bias on my sleeve. It felt like a personal slap in the face because as strong as The Atlantic’s Op-Eds are, its reporting outweighs the calculated thoughts of such legends as Ta-Nehisi Coates. The idea that The Atlantic would publish a story so poorly written on one of the most controversial religious organizations in the world stung. But, the fact that it was paid for by that same church left a bruise turning a darker shade of purple by the minute.

And, yet, I don’t fault the editorial staff for this blunder. Like that old saying about not mixing business and pleasure or church and state, that same rule applies for the editorial and ad staff of a magazine. Each staff’s decisions are its own and should have no influence in either direction. When the writers of The Atlantic saw this story, I have no doubt they felt the sting from that same slap because they know public perception means everything. And nothing is more important to the state of journalism than the perception that our work is fair.

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