Atoosa’s Advice Is in Newspapers, Too

By: Dave Astor

CosmoGirl! magazine has built a circulation of more than a million in just four short years — and its editor in chief also has plenty of newspaper readers.

Atoosa Rubenstein started writing a King Features Syndicate column last June that now has about 40 clients. The weekly “Ask CosmoGirl!” — like Rubenstein’s monthly “Ask Atoosa” magazine column — answers questions about dating, friendship, family, school, issues such as the Iraq war, and other topics of interest to preteen and teen girls.

But the newspaper column is entirely separate from the magazine one, using questions from a different pool of readers that includes plenty of girls but also many boys and parents. “Guys feel more comfortable reading a newspaper than a girls’ magazine,” explained Rubenstein.

Also, the 600-word King column is 200 words shorter than the magazine feature — not a surprise considering the tight space in many newspapers.

Yet the columns, both written entirely by Rubenstein, have much in common. Self-esteem is the underlying issue behind questions from many newspaper and magazine readers, and Rubenstein tries to make girls feel better about themselves with a mix of conversationally written advice drawn from experts and her own experiences. “When I was a girl, anything that could happen happened to me,” she said. “I had bad hair, bad skin, friends dumped me, my father passed away, and we had money problems.”

But with the help of her family and lots of hard work, said Rubenstein, “things worked out in the end” with her personal life and meteoric career. After interning for Sassy magazine while majoring in political science at Barnard College, and after quickly rising to senior fashion editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, Rubenstein spent a whirlwind 48 hours designing a CosmoGirl! prototype the Hearst Corp. liked so much she was named editor in chief at a youthful 26.

“If I knew [as a teen] the life I would have later, I would have been happier,” noted Rubenstein, who tries to convey in her columns that things girls are dealing with now can improve when they’re older.

Rubenstein, 31, certainly has a pulse on what girls are thinking: she receives 500 to 1,000 e-mails a day!

The Iran-born Rubenstein — whose family came to the United States when she was three — approached the Hearst-owned King about starting a syndicated column. Obviously, her feature can help attract girls to newspapers, but what else can papers do to pull in these readers?

Rubenstein said newspapers should realize, among other things, that “girls today are very interested in the world around them and how the news affects them.” She suggested newspapers include the comments of girls in all kinds of stories, whether they be about Iraq, welfare, a nightclub tragedy, or other topics.

York (Pa.) Daily Record Features Editor Buffy Andrews told E&P Online that Rubenstein’s column “connects with today’s teens and deals with a variety of issues important to them.” The paper runs the column three times a month in its “Living” section and the other week in its monthly “Teen Takeover” section staffed by 17 area high school students — who, said Andrews, are “Ask CosmoGirl!” readers.

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A Teenager’s Take on Atoosa


Now More Drawn to Newspapers?

by Maggie Astor

I am a 13-year-old who reads newspapers only for school assignments or for articles about subjects interesting to me — like Harry Potter or celebrities I admire. But Atoosa’s syndicated column might make me read a newspaper more, because it reminds me of why I like her magazine.

CosmoGirl! is not simply another teen publication that lowers girls’ self-esteem as they see pictures of perfectly shaped models and wish they looked like them. Rather, it empowers girls.

While CosmoGirl! covers fashion and beauty — this is a teen magazine, after all — most pages contain articles that can help teens. For example, every issue features two stories about bad experiences readers survived in real life. This is inspiring to readers. Almost all the teen magazines I read have articles of this sort, but the ones in CosmoGirl! (http://www.cosmogirl.com) have a more heartfelt quality I also see in the newspaper column.

Also, Atoosa’s editor letters aren’t the typical, “We’re really proud of this month’s issue. See page 69 for spring beauty tips.” Rather, she shares her experiences and how she survived them.

Through reading CosmoGirl! and Atoosa, I had a solid impression of her in my mind. I imagined her as kind, supportive, upbeat, encouraging, bubbly, and friendly. When I met her, she was almost exactly as I imagined. I was not disappointed. She’s also very passionate and determined. To interview and see her in person was very exciting!

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‘Pioneer Press’ Lays Off Cartoonist


AAEC Laments Another Job Loss

The St. Paul Pioneer Press laid off editorial cartoonist Kirk Anderson effective April 24.

“I was told it was for budgetary reasons,” said Anderson. “I was told it had nothing to do with the quality or nature of my work.”

Anderson, 37, joined the paper as a three-day-a-week staffer in 1995. April 10 was his eighth anniversary at the job.

On April 21, the Minnesota Newspaper Guild-Typographical Union asked the Pioneer Press to rescind the layoff. Also, a petition circulated the newspaper urging Pioneer Press management to keep Anderson. Chuck Laszewski, a reporter at the paper, said April 21 he was expecting at least 500 staffers to sign.

Pioneer Press President and Publisher Harold Higgins declined to discuss personnel matters with E&P Online.

The Artizans-syndicated Anderson said he will probably do freelance cartooning and illustration for the time being. “I’ll miss drawing local cartoons,” he added. “I thought that’s what Knight Ridder was emphasizing — local, local, local.”

Laszewski, who mentioned that the paper has employed an editorial cartoonist for decades, said: “It’s inconceivable they would do something this harmful when we’re in direct competititon with the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune. The amount of money they’ll save is a pittance.”

Mike Sweeney, the union’s executive officer, added: “It was incredibly ill-advised and shortsighted to lay off one of the most visible people at the newspaper for economic reasons.”

When asked, Sweeney confirmed that the Pioneer Press also recently laid off three management people not represented by the union.

Anderson’s layoff continues a trend that has seen the ranks of staff editorial cartoonists dwindle to fewer than 100 in the U.S. as newspapers seek to save money and/or avoid running potentially controversial art.

In a statement, Association of American Editorial Cartoonists President Bruce Plante said: “We at the AAEC are aware of the financial realities of the newspaper industry, but our industry leaders must realize that by laying off an editorial cartoonist of Kirk Anderson’s stature, they are contradicting their own stated goals. Readership surveys have told us readers want more local content, more local commentary, and more visual elements. Editorial cartoonists provide all three. If our industry leaders are truly concerned about readership, laying off cartoonists like Kirk Anderson is the last thing they should do.”

Plante, editorial cartoonist at the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, added that the AAEC intends to “pursue” the Anderson situation in some way.

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‘S-T’ Readers Meet the Beetle


‘Chicago Tribune’ Releases the Comic

Ten months after dropping “Beetle Bailey” from its pages, the Chicago Tribune finally released the comic — and the Chicago Sun-Times snapped it up.

“I feel like I’ve landed on friendly ground,” said “Beetle” creator Mort Walker. “I want to be where I’m wanted.”

The Sun-Times has indeed made Walker feel wanted — publishing a long profile of the cartoonist, writing an editorial welcoming “Beetle” to the paper, and even requesting (and receiving) a “Beetle” original to hang in the newspaper’s offices.

In its editorial, the Sun-Times took some potshots at the Tribune. Although the Tribune stopped running “Beetle” last June, the editorial wondered in a seemingly tongue-in-cheek way whether the actual cancellation of Walker’s military-themed comic was “an act of anti-patriotism” during a time of war.

“They’re doing what they feel they need to do to market their acquisition,” responded Geoff Brown, associate managing editor/Features at the Tribune. “Just because Beetle Bailey wears a helmet doesn’t mean he represents the modern American military.”

When asked why “Beetle” was dropped, Brown said: “We need to update and freshen the comics lineup from time to time.” He told E&P Online that Walker’s 1950-founded strip wouldn’t have been in the Tribune in the first place if another comic hadn’t been dropped to make room for it years ago.

Brown added: “I grew up reading ‘Beetle Bailey.’ I have no agenda against ‘Beetle Bailey’ or Mort Walker.”

The Tribune received much more negative than positive reaction from readers after pulling “Beetle” last June, and after recently announcing in the paper that it had officially canceled the comic. “Quite naturally, people don’t like change,” said Brown, adding that readers are more likely to write newspapers with complaints than praise. But he noted that the total number of “Beetle” complaints was “small.”

Walker said he wrote the Tribune several times since mid-2002 to ask why “Beetle” had been dropped, but never received a reply. Brown said he didn’t personally receive a letter from the cartoonist, and added that he had been communicating with King Features Syndicate about the matter. King distributes “Beetle” to about 1,800 newspapers.

The Tribune made several comics changes over the past 10 months, so Brown said no one particular strip replaced “Beetle.”

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Wide Circ for Pulled ‘AJC’ Cartoon


Luckovich Drawing Shown on Web and TV

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial cartoon that was never printed ended up getting widely circulated.

“More people saw the cartoon than if it had actually run in the paper, [so] it probably had a lot more impact,” said Mike Luckovich, whose drawing showed Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue standing next to a flag that said “I’m With Stupid.” Perdue was elected partly on a platform to push for a return to a more Confederate-oriented state flag.

How did more people see the cartoon? It ran briefly by mistake on the AJC Web site (see the April 17 “Syndicate World”). Then it was shown on another site (http://www.georgiareporter.com). Then at least three local TV stations did reports about the cartoon. Then a poster-sized version of the cartoon was displayed in the state legislature.

Luckovich ended up receiving several dozen e-mails, with about 70% critical of the cartoon — which was slated to run in AJC‘s April 15 edition before being pulled.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Luckovich is distributed by Creators Syndicate to about 160 papers. His Perdue cartoon was not syndicated nationally.

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Web Pinch Hits for Print ‘Thorp’


‘Chicago Tribune’ Pulls Comic, but Offers URL

When the Chicago Tribune dropped “Gil Thorp” from its sports section this month after 40-plus years, it decided to help readers continue to see the strip.

In an unusual post-comic-cancellation move, the paper put a box in the sports section giving the address where “Gil Thorp” could be viewed on the Tribune‘s Web site. The box was to appear for about two weeks, according to Dan McGrath, the paper’s associate managing editor for sports.

“‘Gil Thorp’ still has some devoted readers,” said McGrath. “We didn’t want to deny them access.”

He noted that this won’t help “Gil Thorp” readers who don’t have Internet access, but said the Tribune just didn’t want to run the strip in print anymore. “It’s not as good as it was before [creator] Jack Berrill died,” said McGrath, referring to the comic’s stories as well as art. “But it was a painful decision. I’ve read ‘Gil Thorp’ all my life.”

McGrath reported that about 40 readers contacted the paper after it dropped the Tribune Media Services strip, and some expressed appreciation for the Web-referral box.

The Tribune sports section hasn’t replaced “Gil Thorp” with another comic. Explained McGrath: “There’s always a need for extra space on the scoreboard agate page.”

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Tina Brown Getting Syndicated


United Offers Column by Former Mag Editor

Tina Brown’s weekly Salon.com column is being syndicated to newspapers by United Media.

Brown was editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker magazines before launching the now-defunct Talk magazine. She will host an upcoming TV series called Topic A with Tina Brown on CNBC.

United said Brown “shares her insider observations on the political and cultural elite” in the column, which she also writes for the Times of London.

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