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Media: August 2009

| July 31, 2009 | 0 Comments


“Print remains a viable media source, especially if you have unique distribution,” says True Star magazine co-founder, publisher and executive director DeAnna McLeary, whose free magazine for, by, and about local teens is distributed at high schools, YMCA’s Boys & Girls Clubs, McDonald’s, barber shops, beauty salons, libraries and retail clothing stores. “We distribute directly to our readers and are not newsstand driven.”

McLeary started the nonprofit magazine with Na-Tae’ Thompson in 2004 as part of an After School Matters journalism program with 17 teenagers at Rainbow Beach Park on Chicago’s South Side. The result was a four-page newsletter underwritten by the Black McDonald’s Operators Association.

“Na-Tae’ and I were doing this as a way of giving back to the community by teaching teenagers writing skills; we never thought this would end up being a full-fledged venture five years later,” she says.

Now, there are 13 such programs across the city, and the magazine is a glossy 44-page quarterly whose mission is “to inform, entertain, educate, and serve as the voice of 21st-century youth.” Students, who are recruited from schools and community centers, participate in every aspect of the magazine, including writing, design, and illustration. And they’re paid for their efforts.

A typical issue of the hip, colorful magazine includes dating and money tips, advice on dealing with parents and teachers, and personal stories. One issue had an article comparing city to suburban schools and an interview with solo artist and former Destiny’s Child member LeToya Luckett that included questions about her teen years – and how to survive them.

Although the magazine has a Web presence and will launch a blog program this summer (see or, McLeary says having a print edition is particularly relevant to today’s urban teenagers.

“There is a significant digital divide in the urban community, and the majority of urban youth still do not have Internet access at home and very little access at school,” she explains. “There is also a misconception [about] teens being on the Internet. Teens are active on popular networking sites, and are huge text massagers. [While] Facebook and text messaging are primary activities for urban teens; it’s a lot different from reading a magazine online.

“Teens like something portable and glossy, and to see their names and image in print.”

McLeary hopes to launch True Star programs in Atlanta and Washington D.C. in the next two years, and eventually expand to Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, and New York, as well as other countries.

But each will have a local focus. “Teenagers are not monolithic and you cannot create one book for all teens,” she says. “You have to empower teens locally at a grassroots level and give them a platform to discuss issues that directly affect them.

True Star would also like to be the number one employer of teens in the country, and give them opportunities they couldn’t fathom.”

FURTHER PROOF THAT PRINT LIVES: ALARM MAG: Chicago-based ALARM Magazine debuted a series of a new collector-quality book format with its latest issue, which features Nick Cave, Pit Er Pat, Vivian Girls, Parts & Labor, Yo Majesty, Young Widows, and more. “We bring together this strangely connected group of artists,” explains founder and Editor-In-Chief Chris Force. “In the process, we have also grown a fanatical following of diehard music fans making the decision to move to our new book format a logical step forward. The transition works well with our longer, in-depth writing style and also highlights our attention to design and the best in contemporary music photography. Like a well-played album, each issue will be something readers can collect and revisit for years to come.” The smart, beautifully rendered indie mag has covered everything from punk to hip-hop to neoclassical to world to alt-country to jazz since it debuted in 1995, and promises the new format will contain nearly double the content of previous issues. Annual subscriptions are $30; read more at

ODDS ‘N’ SODS: We’re pleased that WLS-AM (890) picked up “Steve Dale‘s Pet World,” which was recently dumped by WGN-AM (720) and now airs Saturdays from 2 to 3 p.m. with an additional hour-long online-only show at Now, if they’d just make it a single two-hour on-air show . . . Look for that other Steve – Dahl – to make an announcement about a new, CBS-backed daily podcast later this month . . . Chicago radio vet James VanOsdol is looking for help self-publishing his upcoming book, Chicago Rocked! 1990-1999. And how is VanOsdol – a veteran of WKQX, WZZN, and WXRT (and currently an Affiliate Manager for Emmis/Chicago) going to do this? Via a pledge drive, of course. Learn more at, where you can see a blurry 1997 photo of Van Osdol with members of Fig Dish, Smoking Popes, Veruca Salt, and Pulsars . . . WGCI-FM (107.5) recently dumped two female personalities – Frankie Robinson and Bionce Foxx – and replaced them with two female imports originally from New Orleans – Loni Swain (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Consuella Williams (6 to 10 p.m). May Robinson and Foxx land on their feet soon – in Chicago, of course.

— Cara Jepsen

Category: Columns, Media, Monthly

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