For seven years, the online magazine Rookie cultivated close relationships with its teenage readers, looking them straight in the eye. On Friday, its founder, Tavi Gevinson, announced the site will shutter.
Rookie published articles on such varied topics as making GIFs, navigating friendship, choosing birth control, and skateboarding films, as well as photo essays that strikingly captured the lives of girls and young women. It published reader-submitted collages on monthly themes, constructed out of printable collage kits.
Perhaps its best-known feature was the “Ask a Grown” column, which showed celebrities like Cyndi Lauper, Stephen Colbert, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus thoughtfully answering readers’ questions on how to deal with the hard stuff of life. “Is your life just way too confusing to even deal with right now?” Rookie asked. “Why not ask a non-terrible adult about it?”
The site ran an array of advice and personal essays under the rubric Live Through This (where a recent story is titled “You’re Not a Garbage Person: And Other Pep Talks”). Rookie was also a platform for writers including music critic Jessica Hopper and taste-making photographer Petra Collins, and it spawned a series of books.
In a six-page editor’s note, Gevinson, now a 22-year-old actor and writer, explained that the site is shutting down “because digital media has become an increasingly difficult business, and Rookie in its current form is no longer financially sustainable.” But closing the site was also her choice, she said, because she didn’t want to do the things that might sustain it, “like selling it to new owners, taking money from investors, or asking readers for donations or subscriptions.”
In the personal, self-searching style that was one of the site’s hallmarks, Gevinson detailed the anxious reckoning she undertook about the future of Rookie:
“Who would I be if this was not such a big part of my identity? What would it force me to confront—about youth, the passing of time, myself—if it were to end? What loss would I feel if it were to just go away? What kind of guilt, if it had been my choice? These are important questions to me, and I think that leaving them as hypotheticals would be a mistake. Another important question: What would it do to my brain to know what it’s like to not be responsible for a business, and/or synonymous with a brand? That’s another thing I would tell myself when I was really anxious and stressed: You’re just sad that you have to live on your own now and support yourself; that making work which people are meant to consume means having/being a brand; that you’re growing up and that capitalism exists.”
As the news of the magazine’s closure spread, many wrote to Gevinson on Twitter about what Rookie had meant to them.
“You and rookie have changed my life. I don’t even know how to express how thankful I am for rookie’s presence in my life,” wrote one.
“Thank you so much for bringing us Rookie, Tavi. It will live on in all the artwork that I and hundreds of other girls are only brave enough to make because of you. Wishing you love and light in whatever you choose to do next,” wrote another.
“rookie was such a huge part of my growing up, feeling whole, and feeling understood,” tweeted one young woman. “i’ll miss it with the whole of my heart!!”
“I read Rookie all the way through my high school and college years,” tweeted one fan. “As a queer person about your age struggling to find myself, it was the best rollercoaster I could have asked for. Thank you for your dedication and best of luck in your future endeavours.”
“I cried reading this. Rookie has had a huge impact on who I am, on my life and my art, and I refer back to favourite articles all the time,Thank you so much for creating such an important, radical space when we all really needed it. Will adore Rookie forever,” tweeted another.
In her note, Gevinson sent the love right back to Rookie‘s readers, while giving herself permission to move on from the brand that has defined her.
“[T]hat next iteration of what Rookie stands for—the Rookie spirit, if you will—is already living on in you. You’ve made friends with each other. You’ve made your own zines, blogs, clubs, collectives, bands,” she writes. “You didn’t need Rookie or me to do any of that, but maybe we gave you an extra nod of encouragement. You felt bad one night and read an article on here and then you felt better. That was all 15-year-old me wanted. 21-year-old me wanted more. 22-year-old me has enough.”
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