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  JANE  
 

Circulation: 700,000
Date of Birth: 1997
Frequency: Ten times a year
Price: $2.99
Natural Habitat: The floor of a studio apartment, half buried beneath a pile of last night’s clothes, shopping bags, aborted projects, and other assorted debris

By Aimee Levitt

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Your cool friend. Her specter hangs over all your memories of adolescence. She was the one who knew all about boys and sex and makeup and birth control and the rules about light and dark alcohol, and she was more than happy to instruct you in all these things in marathon late-night phone conversations. When she told you that your hair did not totally suck, you could believe it. She had authority.

For the teenage readers of the late, lamented Sassy, that was its editor Jane Pratt.

Any magazine that dared to take Sassy’s place, even one with the same editor, was bound to be a disappointment, and Jane was no exception. Its readers were grown up now and didn’t need to be told how the world worked. They were the editors’ and writers’ contemporaries. They had more money; they wanted to buy things.

So Jane gave them fashion spreads and articles about cellulite cream. To attract attention on the newsstand, it put celebrities on the cover. To prove it was different from other women’s magazines, it ran music reviews, a food column called “Eat!” and a regular “Makeunder” feature in which a lucky reader had her makeup taken away. All this would not be so distressing to readers expecting something a little more substantial from a women’s magazine if Jane did not keep reminding them every issue, in the form of Pratt’s “Jane’s Diary” entries and first-person digressions in stories (“I can’t help but think back to a photo shoot Mandy did with a magazine I worked for five years ago.”), how cool it was. Didn’t you wish you could be like Jane and Stephanie and Katy and all the other writers? Their lives were, like, so awesome!

This was not endearing. It was annoying. Nobody likes to hear about the fabulous party she’s missing. Even if it’s only the conceit of a New York magazine.
Then Pratt got engaged, turned forty, and had a baby. Her diary entries evolved into domestic chronicles of pregnancy and life with Andrew and baby Charlotte. It became apparent that Pratt was no longer one of us.

So in the fall of 2005, Pratt stepped down and the publisher, Condé Nast, hired Brandon Holley from ELLEgirl to replace her.

Pratt’s departure left Jane in an interesting quandary: how could the magazine continue to function without its eponymous figurehead? Holley and her staff decided to pretend that the title referred not to Pratt but to a state of being. “Jane is you,” Holley wrote in her first editor’s letter in November 2005. “A woman with a wicked sense of humor and a great sense of style. A girl with a brain and a conscience and, yes, sometimes a hangover.”
In other words, dear readers, this magazine is now about you and how cool you are. It is fundamentally no better than you are, just slightly better informed.

The new Jane-less Jane is undemanding, not like the bitchy girls over at Cosmo or Vogue. She appreciates that you can’t afford an all-designer wardrobe, that it’s hard to have acrobatic sex every night if you don’t have a boyfriend, that you still get zits sometimes, spend more than you earn, are too lazy to cook elaborate meals, panic-clean your apartment in the five minutes before your mom is due to show up, and that your life is not, and will probably never be, perfect. Hell, she’s not perfect either. Her layouts can be sloppy, editorial content indistinguishable from ads. Her fashion spreads are still ridiculous (“Metallic headbands with ginormous rhinestones”?), and feature expensive clothes and preternaturally skinny models. Her idea of serious reporting is a feature on a woman in Uganda who was kidnapped as a twelve-year-old, raped, and forced to serve in the rebel army, but escaped and is totally fine now. (You go, girl!) And her insistence that February cover girl Mandy Moore has “major balls” is just—well, we have all said stupid things to justify the way we earn our living.

Reading Jane is a pleasant way to spend an hour. When you finish reading, you will not feel a desperate need to begin a self-improvement regimen and then feel depressed when you fall off the wagon three days later. It’s not inspiring or challenging or even enraging. It’s not your cool friend. It’s just the goofy girl in the next cubicle.

 
 
 

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