R.I.P. Jane

I just learned that Condé Nast is ceasing publication of Jane magazine, and I have to admit, I’m a little sad. I picked up a stray copy of the last issue on the subway, and while the product placement was egregious, the magazine has magaged to maintain a different tone and feel from other "women’s" titles, although it’s been years since it was the unabashedly feminist alternative founded by Jane Pratt. I enjoyed the article on regional road trips within the United States and the interview with Rufus Wainwright.

I think Jane went wrong when it forgot how it essentially differed from other titles. And like so many magazines, by the time it found its voice again, it was too late from a business perspective. Here’s what I wrote about my memories of the early Jane last year:

    At the bookstore earlier this week, I noticed that Jane magazine has a pretty fat September fashion issue, and that the cover lines are a far cry from the magazine’s mid-90s aesthetic, which was all about the kind of underground chic portrayed in grunge-era movies like "Reality Bites" and "Empire Records"–movies for those of us who preferred (pre-five finger discount) Winona Ryder to Alicia Silverstone, Veruca Salt to the Spice Girls. Now that Jane’s been wrested away from founding editor Jane Pratt (also of beloved Sassy magazine), what does it offer up? "Get Gorgeous: 10 Beauty Tips!" "380 Fashion Scores!" "How Classy Girls Have Naughty Sex!" In the old days, it would have been more like: "How Naughty Girls Have Dirty Sex"…

I have vivid memories of reading Jane in my bedroom in middle school and early high school, when its Gen-X disgruntlement was a welcome respite from the rah-rah enthusiasm of the teen rags. Jane’s writers and editors had real identities and often served as guinea pigs, going on ill-conceived blind dates or shopping trips with minor celebrities. The tone was sharp and snarky, openly feminist. In an early editor’s letter, Pratt revealed that her own mother thought the project was too idealistic: how would Jane ever attract advertisers?

Well now, under new editor Brandon Holley, it seems they finally have. I know publishing is a business–I used to work at BusinessWeek. So I’m not really lamenting the new Jane, just remembering, rather wistfully, what used to be. I think young women are still hungry for a fun, feminist mag that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

By the way, my recommendation for a light-hearted, feminism-inspired monthly is Bust these days. Great article in the latest issue on "feminist mormon housewives."

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