BOB GARFIELD: In this month's YM, the magazine's teenage female readers can learn how to make an edgy pin for Valentine's Day, take a quiz on finding your perfect prom date and discover why lacrosse players are the cutest, smartest jocks of all. What they won't find and may be surprised to miss is a single story on dieting! New YM editor in chief Christina Kelly has simply removed them from the editorial menu. She joins us now. Christina, welcome to OTM.
CHRISTINA KELLY: Thanks for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: So why this move? Why did YM decide to stop doing stories on dieting?
CHRISTINA KELLY: We just thought it was a really important thing to do for our readers. YM's for teenage girls, and teenagers are really impressionable and we know that body image is a big issue for them, and we didn't want to add to the noise that they constantly hear about trying to look better.
BOB GARFIELD:But I'm just curious -- doesn't this take a, you know, very big arrow from YM's quiver? Isn't diet journalism kind of a staple of the genre?
CHRISTINA KELLY: Well a lot of magazines do use diet articles to sell magazines, but there's plenty of other things to write about; there's plenty of other ways to sell magazines, and I don't think we need to do it.
BOB GARFIELD:Well this has always been kind of a structural problem with the whole category of magazines for women and particularly for young women, because they've always been rife with diet tips and so forth -- often right next to stories about self-esteem and depression and so forth. How would you defend what YM has done in the past and what the whole category does in this area?
CHRISTINA KELLY: Well, I mean there are, there are a certain number of readers who do want to read those kinds of stories. Just yesterday I got an e-mail from a reader who said she wants to lose 20 lbs. Please do an article telling me how to do it. But I don't really think it's something that I need to do. I think that she can get that information elsewhere and also I don't think a diet article in a magazine ever helped another lose weight. I think it just made people more pre-occupied with the way they look.
BOB GARFIELD:So when you go back to back issues and see pieces like YM's 60 Slick Diet Tricks That Really Work and, you know, one of them is--Trick Number 50 -- Fidget. People who drum their nails, tap their feet or just can't sit still burn more calories -- does it make you just cringe?
CHRISTINA KELLY: Yeah, totally makes me cringe [LAUGHS] -- I can't even believe it. Actually I was--talking to my executive editor about this yesterday and she's only been working with me for a couple of months, but she was at YM previously years ago and she I think did that story -- you know she was telling me about how horrible it was to have to write it.
BOB GARFIELD:Are you going to get rid of diet stories but also keep these impossibly skinny freaks of nature, 20 inch waists, big-busted girls who nonetheless form some sort of unachievable ideal?
CHRISTINA KELLY: Absolutely not. The fashion department is under strict orders to not use anyone who's --looks totally skinny, and as a matter of fact in the February and the March issue we use a size 14 model, and just a regular beauty story in February and a regular fashion story in March, and we don't make an issue of it. Usually when you see size 14 models in magazines it's for How to Dress for Your Body Type, but she's just in the Prom Story and it's not really discussed, and readers have really responded to that and are really happy about it.
BOB GARFIELD:Well there's a number of possibilities for how this will all shake out. One is that young readers will finally detect a sense of reality in the genre and flock to YM because they believe that at long last they're really seeing their own lives and their own bodies reflected in your pages. The other possibility is that this is fundamentally a fantasy genre and that kids who read these magazines trying to imagine themselves as something other than they are will just be turned off and, and go elsewhere.
CHRISTINA KELLY: I really doubt that. I don't think the larger models we're using are any less beautiful. As a matter of fact the size 14 model we used is more beautiful than any of the other girls, and it still has that same sense of fantasy.
BOB GARFIELD:All right, so we can't turn to YM for dieting tips any more, but I just -- I just have to know -- lacrosse boys -- are they really smarter and cuter than other jocks?
CHRISTINA KELLY: [LAUGHS] They are! Yes! Definitely! [LAUGHTER] They're just the boys of the month. There's a diff-- there's different ones every month in that, in that section of the magazine.
BOB GARFIELD: Well listen, thank you very much. We appreciate your coming on, and, and again, congratulations.
CHRISTINA KELLY: Thanks a lot.
BOB GARFIELD: Christina Kelly is the editor in chief of YM Magazine which has decided to ditch diet tips. [MUSIC]