Teen Vogue’s August issue tackles voter suppression

Teen Vogue’s August issue tackles voter suppression

Teen Vogue is joining the ranks of other news organizations by dedicating resources to covering voting rights ahead of the November elections.

“The Uncounted,” launched on Tuesday by the Condé Nast-owned magazine, is a series about disenfranchised voters that specifically highlights the stories of women of color. The digital cover for its August issue, titled “Suffragettes,” includes first-person accounts from 10 voting rights activists, including Puerto Rican civil rights activist Aliana Margarita Bigio-Alcoba, Native Alaskan student activist Charitie Ropati and actor and activist Yara Shahidi.

Writer and activist Raquel Willis, actor Jessica Marie Garcia, actor Leah Lewis, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s Tiniesha Johnson, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, New York City Council candidate Shahana Hanif, and Black Lives Matter activist Thandiwe Abdullah round out the group of women on the August cover.

The release was timed with the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote. But rather than celebrating that milestone, Teen Vogue calls out the discriminatory state laws that prevent many non-white Americans from voting.

“The Teen Vogue angle on the story is: But what about? What about the people that were left behind in that moment, and what about the people that don’t connect to this bigger story of feeling engaged and excited for the right to vote?” Samhita Mukhopadhyay, executive editor at Teen Vogue, told CNN Business.

With a contentious election on the horizon that is complicated by a pandemic and misinformation about mail-in voting, many news organizations have dedicated resources and reporting to setting the record straight. And now Teen Vogue is doing the same. The Washington Post’s media critic Margaret Sullivan in a recent column called on journalists to “focus on voting rights and election integrity.”

“There’s no more important subject than the strong possibility of intentional voter suppression or other Election Day chaos that’s coming our way,” Sullivan wrote.

After the 2016 US presidential election, Teen Vogue’s political coverage garnered attention with pieces such as Lauren Duca’s op-ed titled “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.” But the coverage has transformed into far more than just viral one-offs. Mukhopadhyay, who joined Teen Vogue in 2018, said it was a necessary “evolution” for speaking to their audience, many of whom are old enough to vote and some likely for the first time in 2020. More than 70% of Teen Vogue’s audience is Gen Z and millennial, the company said.

“Young people are very conscientious about the politics that are impacting their lives. They’re upset about the world that they’re looking out on, and job prospects are low, and student debt is crippling, and climate change is real,” Mukhopadhyay said. “We know that most of our readers are both interested in fashion and culture as much as they are interested in advocating for themselves and their participation as full citizens in our society.”

Teen Vogue has recently seen an increased interest in its news and politics coverage. Unique visitors to Teen Vogue’s news and politics stories were up 95% from March to July compared to the year prior, according the company. Teen Vogue’s overall traffic was up 51% for the same time period. This upward trend aligns with much of the media industry as pandemic lockdowns prompted many to turn to the news on TV and on their phones for information.

Other content in “The Uncounted” series to be released later this week include a timeline on suffrage and a story on teens advocating for the voting age to be lowered.

Mukhopadhyay said Teen Vogue is planning more themed packages and political coverage ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. The focus is less about telling readers to get out and vote but more looking at what voting means and what issues are important to them.

“We know this from the mask conversation: Public shaming is not actually an effective strategy for civic engagement. It’s just fundamentally not, and so it’s really important to us to recognize and meet where people who feel very ambivalent about voting are at rather than just talking down to them,” Mukhopadhyay said.