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There were few publications that defined girlhood in the 2010s as distinctly as the online magazine Rookie. Rookie felt like the public diary of a whole generation, taking the stories and artwork of thousands of teens across the world and consolidating them into what now feels like a time capsule of an era I hadn’t quite realized had ended.
Last Friday morning, Tavi Gevinson, the founder and editor in chief of the online magazine, published a six-page editor’s letter that announced sad news: that letter would be the last post on the site. The magazine “in its current form is no longer financially sustainable,” Gevinson wrote, and the website would be shut down in a few months, marking the end of an era for many readers.
Rookie has been an active part of the internet landscape for seven years. It was created by Oak Park native Gevinson in 2011 when she was only 15 years old. What began as Gevinson’s fashion blog, Style Rookie, has morphed into a veritable empire: not just a platform for young writers and artists to share playlists, personal narratives, advice and visual art, Rookie also published four "yearbooks," a collection titled Rookie on Love, and launched a podcast.
"Thank you for growing up with us," Gevinson wrote in her final letter. As a long-time reader and contributor to the publication, I admit I couldn't read that sentence without tearing up—it captures exactly why Rookie was so important. With an audience predominantly of young girls, Rookie has been a part of the adolescence of whole generation of readers. Even as it shifted and grew, it maintained a consistent voice of big-sisterly honesty and vulnerability.
In addition to serving as an important resource for many teen girls, Rookie fostered community in a way reminiscent of national riot grrrl zine culture of the 90s, but in a contemporary, internet-mediated form. Through Rookie meetups—both official and unofficial—and book signings, the site brought readers together and created a global network of collaboration that will undoubtedly outlive the site itself.
As a testament to its importance to its readers, following Gevinson's announcement, social media platforms flooded with readers and contributors expressing their gratitude for the friendships and advice Rookie has brought them. "The response has been really overwhelming, and I think it's a reflection of how something like this was needed, and is still needed," Gevinson says in a phone conversation.
Gevinson described in her final letter how, though she had explored every option in her power to keep the site viable, Rookie had reached its natural end. Along with the financial strain brought on by a drop in ad revenue, editing the publication had become overwhelming for Gevinson, who was in a position of constantly balancing the sometimes conflicting demands of Rookie's creative and enterprising sides as well as her own acting career. "The whole point [of Rookie] is to be yourself and to be authentic, and it took me a long time to realize that running it was actually interfering with me doing that in my life," says Gevinson. "Rookie the art project didn’t make me feel that way, but Rookie the business did."
Gevinson feels a mixture of "grief and relief" now that the news has finally been announced, likening the site’s shutdown to graduation: a period of closure, bittersweet but the beginning new possibilities. "The spirit [of Rookie] won’t go away," Gevinson says, "We’ll just find each other at other book signings and whatnot."