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The Next Generation of Change Makers: Tavi Gevinson, Nora Gomez-Strauss & Jen Tolentino of Rock the Vote

by Grace Bonney

Last week the online publishing world said a sad but heartfelt goodbye to an important and meaningful voice in our community: Rookie Magazine. I have never felt more strongly connected and in agreement with an editor’s letter than with this incredible send-off letter that founder Tavi Gevinson wrote. In her final editor’s letter, Tavi addressed all the challenges and changes that online publishers faced and how the industry has changed in a way that makes getting authentic stories out into the world incredibly difficult. I had so many questions (and mainly just a lot of “thank you”s), so I was thrilled that this ending coincided with the 2018 ISSUU Generator’s Summit, where I was hosting a panel discussion on people using their platforms for change with Tavi, Nora Gomez-Strauss (of the Public Art Fund) and Jen Tolentino (of Rock the Vote).

Last week the four of us sat down to talk about how we use our platforms to affect change, the challenges we all face, and what advice we all have for anyone (brands or individuals) looking to use their work and online presence to bring about change in their communities. Our conversation was heartfelt and full of deep reflection, especially in light of Rookie’s closing the week before. I have so much respect and admiration for all three of these women and am honored to share our discussion here today on the newest episode of the Good Company Podcast. You can see some highlights (quotes) below from our talk, but I hope you’ll give it a listen below, too. Thank you so much to ISSUU for bringing us together and sponsoring this episode and to Tavi, Nora and Jen for joining me in such a meaningful discussion. The internet may be a difficult place to work these days, but I feel happy to know we’re in good company with voices like theirs in the world. xo, Grace

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HIGHLIGHTS:

“I’m constantly inspired by how do we take the passion that we see in this generation and harness that toward building a country and communities that reflects the values of our generation.” -Jen Tolentino (02:14)

“The lovely thing about announcing Rookie’s closing is that now watching the reactions come in and seeing how from this side of a business like that, you become used to quantifying change in numbers and traffic and book sales and podcast listens and followers and everything like that. It’s been lovely to hear from people who are like, ‘I’m usually quiet on social media,’ or, ‘I don’t use it,’ or, ‘I’ve never commented before, but this led me to start my own zine.’ -Tavi Gevinson (6:10)

“I realized that we were really running for our kids because they were seeing us do all of this. We read these stories to them about superheroes and people who make a difference, but we realized that we needed to show them that democracy requires everybody to take action, and that we can’t wait around and wait for a superhero. We have to be our own superheroes.” -Nora Gomez-Strauss (10:08)

“Young voters respond really well to hope, to a feeling that there is the possibility that they can do something, that there’s no judgment in the fact that maybe you didn’t vote before, but now you’re going to, something that’s really issue-focused.” -Jen Tolentino (24:12)

“You get caught up in trying to quantify change. I think the fact is it has a ripple effect and you can’t know exactly what it will do for people. At least something like this, that’s writing an art that’s meant to make people feel seen and heard, it’s easy for me to look at the media landscape and see Rookie’s contribution there. It’s the humanity of talking to someone who has a question they need answered or who is maybe not who I would identify as a typical Rookie or something. All of that is different.” -Tavi Gevinson (28:58)

“It’s fascinating to have conversations with young people and realize that civic education in this country, we’re doing such a disservice to them, that they don’t necessarily understand the structure of our federal government, let alone the state and local level. The idea of how hard people had to work, and that the government was founded by … When there’s a stat that’s tossed out there about turnout used to be great, it was 80% and we want to get back to that. The 80% was when it was generally white landowners that were men. So it’s like great. That was really high turnout for them, but because we’ve increased access to our democracy so significantly, we need to do a lot of work to engage that electorate.” -Jen Tolentino (31:21)

“To go and see my name on the ballot and vote for myself was surreal. I don’t know if I can recall a moment that was really like that. I remember at the moment thinking, it almost doesn’t matter if I win.” -Nora Gomez-Strauss (33:49)

“Take feedback and listen to it. Take criticism and remember that criticism is your friend. It’s meant to make you and what you’re doing smarter and better.” -Tavi Gevinson (37:26)

 

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