Black teen-agers have been big fans of "Video Soul" and other Black Entertainment Television programs since the cable network made its debut 11 years ago. Now Robert L. Johnson, chairman and founder of BET, is banking on their loyalty with a new magazine for black teens called Young Sisters and Brothers.
For the past few months, BET has aired slick commercials during music video programs, urging young viewers to phone a 900-number and order 10 issues of YSB for $11.95. Paige Communications, a BET subsidiary, plans to distribute the first issue in August.
The new magazine will be different than other teen magazines, according to editor Frank Dexter Brown. YSB articles will be written in a mix of standard and colloquial English that is common to black youths.
"For instance, we use the terms 'brother' and 'sister' when referring to individuals throughout the magazine," Mr. Brown says. "We will use language that is a departure from anything out there."
Mr. Brown, a veteran journalist with degrees in literature and journalism from Columbia University, says the style will foster a sense of community among his young subscribers. He believes that many black youths don't see themselves in today's popular teen magazines.
Because Spice, Black Teen, Flash and other publications for black youths tend to focus on entertainment, a lifestyle magazine could fill a void, says Dr. Samir Husni, a University of Mississippi professor who analyzes new magazines.
"It's virgin territory," says Mr. Husni, "but it will be a difficult task."
To avoid duplicating television fare and to give YSB a hip voice and a youthful point-of-view, the magazine will be partly written and edited by black youth, Mr. Brown says.
"Ten of the writers in the first issue are teen-agers or college students," he says. "We set up a workshop to teach writing, editing and photography so young people can contribute to the publication."
Unlike some teen magazines, which focus primarily on fashion and entertainment, Mr. Brown says that YSB will include stories on social issues, like homelessness, sexuality and poverty. Newsy, analytical articles will run in the same issue as how-to stories.
"When we talk about money management, we'll talk about how money should be used instead of abused," he says.
In an effort to reach male readers, YSB also will include articles on sports and on such subjects as incarcerated youths.
A travel column will reflect the breadth of black cultures spanning the globe. The first issue, for example, will examine Egypt and its relationship to other African nations.
In addition to hip hop, rap and pop, music articles will explore such sounds as Senegal's Creole music, Ghana's High Life and Calypso from the Caribbean.