Perks of Hiring Teen Writers: Age Diversity in Workplaces

My friend recently posted an article by the New York Times about diversity in the workplace and this diversity they spoke about was race. It was a great read and had a very thoughtful conclusion, but until reading No-Collar, by Andrew Ross, I never really thought about the term ‘diversity’ extending beyond race and gender. Ross, quotes middle manager, Corinna Snyder of Razorfish saying, “’diversity usually means race and gender; it rarely means age, background, or class’” (30).

Gevinson in 2009

Age is one that specifically stuck out to me. About 6 years ago, I stumbled upon a picture of a girl in a magazine. She was no older than 13, wearing translucent-framed glasses, bright orange shoes, and a large bow on her head. This is Tavi Gevinson, a successful blogger and editor-in-chief of her own magazine. In 2011, Gevinson started Rookie, an online magazine, specifically for teenage girls. She started Rookie because she felt like “there was a voice that I didn’t identify [with]… and I felt like there must be other people that kind of feel that way.” So Gevinson started the magazine and allowed anyone to submit a piece for publication, including teenagers. Why this is so important is because it gave teens a place to voice what they were feeling, their opinions, based off of life experiences, or just fun thoughts that swirled around in their minds.

But aren’t there other magazines out there for teenagers? What about Teen Vogue? Seventeen? J-14?

These magazines do exist, but really cater to one group of people. Articles often cover the Aaron-Carter-teen-crush of the moment, makeup tips, how to get a ‘summer body,’ and an occasional well thought out piece that readers can find relatable. Reflecting back on my old reading material, these magazines focused more on creating conformity and less about empowerment to becoming an individual.

This is problematic because magazines are assuming that all girls are the same in terms of how they dress, what they listen to, and more. Magazines like Rookie allow for more diversity within a magazine because of the ability for anyone to submit a piece. Adult figures aren’t imposing all of their own thoughts without hearing the side of the readers. That’s not to say Rookie doesn’t have any adult writers, but it welcomes anyone, of any age, who has an idea. With a magazine that asks for embarrassing stories, poems, photos, and perspective pieces, it creates a space of connection and empathy.

So why is this diversity so difficult to achieve beyond Rookie? I don’t have answers, but speculations. It’s very labor intensive to go through hundreds, if not thousands of submissions. A magazine might have a theme for the month and having dedicated writers at the publication means less work and hunting for the perfect article. I’m sure many magazines are looking for a diverse group of writers and thinkers, so long as their opinions comply. Another could be the fear of lack of professionalism that comes with working with adolescents.

Ross addresses diversity through one of his case studies, 360hiphop, a company focused on promoting different aspects of hip-hop culture. 360hiphop had a mix of employees, “California Asians, ethnic whites, and South Asians,” while its mission aimed to speak to the different aspects of the hip hop world (177). 360hiphop was eventually sold to BET and many of the 360 employees found themselves becoming frustrated because the diversity they strived to produce became obsolete. They focused on marketing to a small sector of black culture. Having a direct target audience doesn’t reach everyone and can promote the idea of sameness. This can be compared to teenage publications. As a teen, I felt misunderstood and not heard, grievances that, I believe, many teens would identify with. By relying on submissions to fill a magazine, it allows for diverse experiences to be shared as well as a more diverse audience.

Sample of some of Rookie’s articles.

The Internet age has really allowed for this type of diversity to happen. “Until recently, the Internet had… functioned as a gift economy, where goods and information… had to be openly shared…” (27). By openly sharing content, the Internet can act as a larger version of Rookie magazine, but it is important to push for the tangible magazines to share the same open space as the Internet because they also hold so much influence in our culture.

It is important to recognize that our world is comprised of multifaceted people and we must create entertainment that is not streamlined to a group of people. This can be done by incorporating ideas from every age group.

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