Navigating Journalism & Activism: Can it Be Done? Teen Vogue is showing us how.

Gabby Urenda
May 21, 2017 · 3 min read
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The last presidential election brought up many issues surrounding objectivity, but for Teen Vogue’s Digital Editorial Director, Phillip Picardi, there comes a time when you have to stand up for what’s right.

In this case, it meant journalists using their platform to stand with marginalized communities.

Diversifying Coverage and Staff

Teen Vogue took an extreme gamble, Picardi told us, in expanding its content from strictly beauty and fashion coverage to social and political issues. Initial audiences for these posts weren’t huge, but they’ve grown quickly, part of the fabric which has made Teen Vogue the fastest growing website in the USA during the past two years.

Alongside expanding political coverage, Picardi also increased digital content to an all time high for the magazine, which wasn’t easy. At a time when Teen Vogue was focused on print, Picardi had to look at different strategies to engage his audience on a whole new platform.

He walked us through the benefits he gained from taking the time to listen to to readers (he even has his email in his Twitter bio so anyone can contact him)and outlined the benefits of hiring more diverse staff.

His rule for hiring is simple:

“There has to be something magical about you,” Picardi says.

With people from different backgrounds contributing stories, Picardi says that it appeals to more readers, which then increases the amount of traction the magazine is able to get. One wouldn’t be able to exist without the other.

Taking a Chance on Activism

The coverage in itself was something that resonated with the entire group. In a world that tells us not to have an opinion as journalists, Teen Vogue challenged that idea to its core. Writers could be honest about the issues they saw with the Trump administration that other publications were simply tiptoeing around. One article in particular, “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” put Teen Vogue on the political map, and it’s still their most viewed article to date.

When asked if covering issues from a feminist perspective could hurt a journalist’s career, Picardi replied, “Feminism is the truth.”

Picardi’s support for the importance of feminism will come as no surprise to anyone who saw him appear alongside Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, earlier this year.

Though Picardi did acknowledge the importance of bringing opposite views into the conversation, he also said it’s difficult when those views attack the same communities we belong to and cover as journalists.

Takeaways

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Members of the University of Oregon Journalism program at Condé Nast, publisher of Teen Vogue

Phillip told us to not shy away from starting tough conversations on social issues — especially those that impact people who don’t have a voice. Standing up for what’s right might be scary for young journalists, but looking at issues from an intersectional feminist perspective is what makes the work that we do worthwhile.

He also emphasized trying new things and going with what feels right in our career. The journalism industry is changing, but keeping up can be fun. It challenges us to provide content for our readers on different platforms and engage with them in new ways.

As Teen Vogue has shown, you can grow your voice and impact, whilst still staying true to your core values.

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