Australia’s The Age praises Rookie Yearbook One

Local artists paint bright picture for online girls' mag

The Age    |    Philippa Hawker    |    October 27, 2012

IN THE digital world, there is no such thing as the tyranny of distance. Melbourne artists Minna Gilligan, 21, and Ruby Aitken, 22, are regular contributors to Rookie, an online magazine set up in the US that is a media trailblazer.
Its owner, founder and editor-in-chief is Chicago 16-year-old Tavi Gevinson, who made her media debut at 11 as a fashion blogger with a fresh and astonishingly mature take on style, the world, and everything.
When she realised ''there wasn't a magazine for teenage girls that respected its readers' intelligence'', she started one.
Rookie has been online since September 2011. A print version, Rookie Yearbook One, a selection of writing, illustrations and photographs from its first nine months, has just been published.
Rookie is eclectic, practical, cool, heartfelt and surprising, with a strong aesthetic sense.
Gevinson, in her first editorial, described it as ''a place to make the best of the beautiful pain and cringe-worthy awkwardness of being an adolescent girl. When it becomes harder to appreciate these things, we also have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you're sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of eye-rolling rants, too.''
Gilligan was an early recruit to the magazine. For the first year, she contributed a weekly collage that reflected what she was doing and feeling. Now she's illustrating articles - it has been fun, she says, to illustrate stories about filmmaker John Waters, writer David Sedaris and actress Elle Fanning.
Aitken got in touch with the magazine in January, and was quickly brought on board as a contributor, one of more than 50. Her first illustration was for an article called ''Tips from a bacon-loving vegetarian''. There's a strong sense of community among the Rookie team, she says, you always feel as if you are part of it.
There is a monthly theme, which could be anything from ''Power'' to ''On The Road'' to ''Obsession''. Next month's is ''Invention''. The contents are updated three times a day, five days a week. In the current issue, you can read an interview with a teenage activist talking about her role in the Arab Spring, then click on a guide to Halloween candy highlights.
There are regular advice columns, DIY articles, fashion spreads, stories from the frontline of adolescence, and encounters of all kinds with the wider world.
Why Can't I Be You? is a new series about people with enviable jobs. Literally The Best Thing Ever could be a paean to Shakespeare, new school supplies, M.I.A. or Joni Mitchell.
There is no shortage of high-profile admirers, male and female, ready to be part of Rookie.
A video feature, Ask A Grown Man, has well-known figures such as Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Ira Glass (This American Life) respond to questions from readers on things that matter to them. President Barack Obama is on Rookie's wish-list.
Rookie's editorial director is writer and journalist Anaheed Alani. She and Gevinson decide on each month's theme, which always has a strong visual identity.
Alani says she values the dialogue Rookie can have with readers.
''Being able to hear from them makes our work so much stronger … Every time a post goes up, at least one of our readers says that we must have read their mind, because the article covers exactly what they're going through RIGHT NOW.'' She is sure that having a teenage girl as editor makes this possible.
Alani says they would like draw on a wider, more diverse group. ''We'd like to cover more issues related to race and class; we'd like to run some pieces by transgender contributors. And we'd love to get more contributions from teenage girls in non-Western countries.''

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