Clover Needs to Take Itself More Seriously, Teen Reviewers Say

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Credit: Clover's website

(WOMENSENEWS)— Clover is daily newsletter for teen girls written by “forever teens” and former magazine editors Liza Darwin and Casey Lewis that launched in early February. The goal is to deliver relevant news in a relatable format directly to teens’ inboxes.

Darwin and Lewis aren’t pretending to be teens, but they are trying too hard to be teen friendly. While the newsletter excels at bright, cheery introductions and the spread of positivity towards other girls, Clover takes the rhetoric of a lighter, tweeny magazine and uses it to tell hard news stories. The two don’t mix well.

While delivering news to a teenage audience may be tricky, what one shouldn’t do is water the news down. While Clover brings vital news stories such as the Flint water crisis, the struggle of Guantanamo Bay, and even ISIS foreign affairs stories to the attention of girls, they riddle these stories with slang, acronyms and pop culture references. It’s as if they don’t understand that teens are smart enough to handle news stories that aren’t littered with teenage references.

Look at this sentence, for example: “If you’re feeling depressed—not just the acute sadness that comes from Trump winning the NH primary or the general ennui caused by yet another week of subzero winter temperatures, but also actual clinical depression–putting on some spandex and hitting the gym for a one-two punch of zen yoga and sweaty spinning could cure what ails you.”

The majority of teenagers understand what the word depression means and the reference fails to provide necessary context for the ones who don’t understand its complexities. In another post, they manage to make depression screenings sound like an unpleasant experience rather than just a bland questionnaire: “This might sound like overkill—going to the doctor is bad enough!” Although unintentional, Clover made us feel like it was unsympathetic to those with mental illness.

Similarly, their story “Not Even Puppies Are Safe from the Flint Water Crisis” focuses on how dogs have tested positive for lead poisoning (with Beyonce’s charity to Flint thrown in). It drops the number of children affected in one sentence, disregarding the severity of the situation. To us, this content implies that Clover thinks girls will feel more compassion for puppies than for the people of Flint. We find this insulting.

Once you get past the “Morning Announcements,” Clover newsletter soars. It has everything from explanations on why girls should reject Donald Trump to a pop culture piece about teen singer Birdy. Gone are the unnecessary slang and references—the voice is authentic and profound. There’s an interview with a singer named Lapsey where she says her most recent album is about “the inevitability of the end of a relationship, but not because anyone’s cheating,” which offers a refreshing take on relationships. In another essay, a peer educator for a sexual advocacy group explains how she overcame assumptions that her work is about “persecuting frat guys or preaching that partying leads to rape.” The essays what makes the newsletter worth reading.

Clover comes as a daily email delivered to your inbox. While we don’t click on the emails every day, we do often go back and read them. They’re a quick and engaging read thanks to the newsletter format. The shorter pieces and cute Instagram shoutouts are at the top, so if you’re reading Clover in between classes, for instance, you can scan the news and discover the information in the longer pieces when you have more time to sit and read.

We commend Clover for its ideas, goodwill and dedication. But they still have a few kinks to work out. We love Clover’s individuality; there are not many newsletters of this kind for our age group. Their quirky vibe translates well into their narratives, but when delivering hard news they must acknowledge that the world is difficult and not everything can be delivered with bubbly exuberance. Clover needs to remember that girls are not delicate or fragile. We can digest news without a pop culture reference thrown in. If girls are genuinely interested in the news, we won’t get the most out of it when it is delivered to us covered in cute embellishments.

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