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New Teen Mag Puts Smut to Shame

  • Rebecca Grace Agape Press
  • 2005 10 Oct
  • COMMENTS
New Teen Mag Puts Smut to Shame

As the sexually-explicit content of teen magazines soars, it's refreshing to know there are some wholesome alternatives designed to lead teens in a positive direction. Justine, a nationally-distributed, Tennessee-based magazine first published in April 2004 for the edification of teen girls, is one of those. Publisher and editorial director Jana Pettey speaks candidly about her vision for the magazine and its immediate success in a sex-driven media market.

Question: Tell me about yourself and this new magazine you have started with a friend.

Answer:
My background for the past 20 years has been in the fashion industry .... I had no publishing background before I came into Justine. But I have been a huge magazine junkie .... [and] I've always just adored reading magazines and enjoying the fulfillment that you get from finishing a great read that has a lot of information presented to you in a beautiful way with beautiful images on a page. I hope that's what we're doing now for teenagers with Justine ... [by] providing them with really good information that is presented in a non-offensive manner .... I mean, just all the way across the board we really try to hit all facets of teen life and just provide them with good, useful, positive information.

Q: And your business partner?

A:
Her name is Margaret Monger, and she is one of my partners in Justine. She has a very successful regional home magazine here out of Memphis [Tennessee] that covers the Mid South. It's called At Home. Her magazine had been out for about a year.

Q: So exactly how did your ideas for Justine come to fruition?

A:
She has teenagers. I have teenagers. Just [through] conversations with people ... [we thought] wouldn't it be great if we could do a teen magazine and really leave a great legacy for our kids and give something positive back to teenagers everywhere. We just did it! We found some other people who were like-minded that could help with some seed money to get us started, and we just took the idea and ran with it. We truly believe in what we're doing ....

Q: What is the meaning behind the name "Justine"?

A:
She's "just a teen."

Q: Is your magazine based on any type of spiritual-belief system?

A:
I think we're just trying to stay away from all the different religions and just provide something that is across the board wholesome and moral .... We wanted to just be just a good, clean teen magazine that would have very broad-based appeal and would be able to fit into the lifestyles of people who have moral convictions within their religions but without doing it in a religious way.

Q: What brought you to the realization that there was a need for a wholesome teen magazine? Did the inappropriate content of other teen magazines spur you in any way?

A:
It absolutely did! I just think there's too much information given in a lot of publications. But it's the media in general. It's not just teen magazines. It's turning on television. It's listening to music. Teenagers are bombarded by and exposed to many facets of society which, when I was a teenager, were a little bit more off limits. Now, it's totally accessible .... I'm not the kind that wants to just put them (kids) in a bubble and keep them away from everything. It's okay that you know things are out there, but you also know why they're not good for you or why you should not choose to go down that path. So we've really tried to keep Justine in the middle of the road -- not just trying to be non-offensive to the masses. That's not to say that some particular image in Justine or advertisement might not offend someone. We won't hit 100 percent, but we're really trying.

Q: Did being a parent have anything to do with your creation of the magazine?

A:
Absolutely! I think I ... represent many parents out there who are looking for safe places for their children, safe reads for their children, safe Internet sites to go to. We have a great interactive Internet site at JustineMagazine.com. So many parents, I think, today assume that if something is a teen magazine or a teen website that it is safe, and they're not. But a lot of parents say, "I never thought to look at that or read that or pay attention to that because in my mind it was for teenagers so that means its safe." Well, the limits have been pushed greatly.

Q: So what makes Justine different?

A:
Everything doesn't have to be about exploitation of kids and teenagers. There's such room for just good information. One of the favorite areas of the magazine that we get a lot of response back on is our "Just Design" area. That's great tips for room makeovers or how to decorate your dorm room or crafts you can make yourself. That's just good information. Everything doesn't have to be about the latest celebrity [or] just pushing the envelope with things that are too worldly.

Q: In your own words, how would you summarize the sole purpose behind Justine?

A: I would say that we set out to create a magazine for teenagers that would inspire young women to want to be successful adults. We hope that we are giving them tools within the magazine to be their own person and to make good decisions about many facets of their lives.

Q: After reading an issue of Justine, what do you hope the readers take with them?

A:
I hope she feels good about herself. I hope that she doesn't feel like that she's always having to compare herself to someone else [and] that we are providing things in Justine that make her feel good about the person that she is.

Q: What type of response has Justine received from teen girls, thus far?

A:
I get e-mails every day from kids all across the country. They come in from Alaska, from all across the country just thanking me. I get amused because some of them will pull out the most obscure quote in the magazine and comment on it, which makes me happy because it lets me know they're reading it. Then, I get other comments from girls like: "I normally take 10 minutes to flip through a magazine. I read yours for two hours." We've actually just done a survey on the Web from a lot of our readers, and I think the average read time for the magazine is like two-and-a-half hours .... For them just to take a deep breath and sit down and read through the magazine and truly enjoy it makes me very happy.

Q: What about responses from parents?

A:
[I've received] so many letters and comments from people [saying] keep up the good work. I actually got a long e-mail from a mom in Alaska just thanking me for putting out something that she really approves of her daughter reading. I got another one in the last week saying she had bought the magazine for her daughter, and her daughter was very excited about getting it, but she couldn't get it until the mom finished reading it because she couldn't put it down. I thought that was fun! And librarians across the country we hear from all the time, too, thanking us for the magazine because ... they're being careful about the kinds of magazines that they put out in front of teenagers, and Justine is very appropriate.

Q: What is the circulation rate for Justine, thus far?

A:
We're at a 200,000 rate base right now and going up to 250,000 in February/March.

Q: What's so special about the cover of each issue?

A:
We always have real girl on the cover. We don't use any celebrities on the cover. We actually did a cover model search last year and got thousands of applicants for that. The girl that won that contest will be on the cover of our December/January issue, and she's from Georgia.

Q: As an insider, why do you think the teen magazine market feels such a "need" to include sexual content?

A:
Well, I think society has become celebrity obsessed, and I think a lot of the celebrity stories that seem to peak people's interest are not necessarily the positive ones about celebrities .... To me, it's more about choosing to write about the positive than the negative than even writing about sex or no sex. I think there are ways to talk about everything if you put a positive spin on it. [For example], why would you ever write an article titled, "20 Things to Do to Win or Trick Your Boyfriend Back"? Who wants him anyway? You know? Where our spin would be "How to Feel Good about Yourself to Attract a Good Guy." So again, it's the same subject matter, but we're just taking a different positive spin on it.

Q: Since "sex sells" do you feel that you are taking a marketing risk by not including such content in Justine?

A:
Oh, we definitely are .... It's definitely an interesting tightrope to walk to sort of stay in that middle ground. But I think it's totally do-able, and I've seen what we've done in the last year, and I think it's worthwhile for us to continue on this path. I've had several parents say, "I don't really want to subscribe to a magazine for my daughter for two years because I'm afraid you'll change your mission." We'll never change our mission. This is what Justine is all about.

Q: Why do you believe it is important for parents to know and feel comfortable with what their children are reading?

A:
I think it will make parent-child relationships much more successful .... I think the more that a parent can truly know about a child and be able to communicate is key.

Q: What advice would you give to parents who are seeking to find quality-reading material in the form of magazines?

A:
I would say they need to buy whatever their child might be interested in and look at it and not be afraid to go to a website that might match it and see if the content there is acceptable.

Q: So what can we expect from Justine in the future?

A:
We're doing some promotions in the fall and in 2006 with Macy's .... We're also working with the Girls of Grace conferences that [Christian music artist] Point of Grace does. We're going to be involved with ... their fall conferences that started in September .... Justine will be doing some fun fashion and lifestyle things with them as well.

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Rebecca Grace, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is staff writer for AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association. To subscribe to Justine, visit the magazine's website or call 1-866-386-9352.

© 2005 AgapePress all rights reserved. Used with permission.