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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Upfront

The New York Times and Teenagers 

My wife and I both grew up in New York City, and though it was in different decades in different boroughs, we had one common experience: starting in elementary school, teachers who got us to read articles in The New York Times. Being a Times reader meant being older, aware, in on real information – identities both of us were eager to claim. So I was pleased to learn about Upfront – the collaboration between the Times and Scholastic which is aimed at modern teenagers and their teachers tinyurl.com/knyflv. (if you want to type than in yourself, it is upfrontmagazine.com)

            The magazine has turned 10 and is using the anniversary to call attention to itself, so I had the chance to see a couple of issues (you can read a good deal on the website, and they will send a free sample if you call Scholastic) and to interview Elliott Rebhun, its publisher and main editor. The publication culls pieces from the Times it think will engage teenagers while also serving teachers (that’s about 75% of its content) and they commission a few new lead pieces from Times reporters.

            In a sense, the magazine’s name is a pun – of course they mean to show teenagers that this publication is direct, truthful. But teenagers are only half their audience. According to their publicity materials, they reach about 20,000 teachers. And that gets to the other meaning of the name: let’s say you are a history teacher and are going to cover something about the Supreme Court. Any textbook offers you Dred Scott. The magazine is covering a current case about whether states can regulate the baggy pants kids wear. The teacher uses the current issue as a kind of front end, a hook, to engage her students, then she can swing into the material she needs to cover.

            Take a look and tell me what you think. The magazine seems like a real opportunity to me – especially for those of us who write or publish nonfiction for these same teenage readers. Elliott said they do take book ads – listen up publishers – and I’d love to see them run Times reviews of YA books, or even offer downloads of a chapter or two of our books. Let’s hope this helps create a new generation of Times readers.