With its sweet name and red lipstick logo, College Candy might look like an Internet counterpart to Cosmopolitan. But make no mistake about it, College Candy boldly goes where no women’s magazine has gone before.
Medill sophomore Zahra Barnes is a writer for College Candy, an online life and style publication written by college girls for college girls. During the summer after her freshman year, a bored Barnes stumbled upon the site and was hooked instantly with the stories that seemed to be pulled directly out of her life.
“I’ve been reading Glamour and Cosmo since I was 12 years old, but that’s too old for me,” she says. “They don’t talk about things that are happening on college campuses.”
College Candy, on the other hand, hit the nail on the head.
“I fell in love because every boy problem I had, every body issue I had, there was something on College Candy that related to it so for me,” she says.
Although it didn’t click with Barnes right away that she could get involved, after several weeks of reading through nearly every article on the site — over a hundred pages for each section — Barnes finally reached out to managing editor Lauren Herskovic to give it a try and began writing this past July.
Herskovic has been with the site since its earliest incarnations. In 2006, after graduating from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, she began working at COED magazine, formerly one of the largest college magazines in the country, but now a rapidly expanding online publication. During her time at COED, Lauren noticed the content aimed at college students everywhere was geared more and more towards a male audience. Looking for an entertaining and informative way to reach female readers, Herskovic and other COED staff started College Candy as a daily e-mail newsletter, before completely relaunching it as a Web site in 2007.
College Candy’s current incarnation covers all the basics for college-age women. The Style section has fashion tips on a budget, while Relationships, which Herksovic said is the most popular section, features articles on boyfriend milestones and booty call etiquette. Buzz covers celebrity gossip and entertainment, while Body offers tips for eating healthy and simple workouts, and is a catch-all for health questions about anything from STDs to hangovers. HaHa, one of the more unique sections, is the site’s grab bag of humor and random Web finds, containing both the innocuous and the disturbing.
With their informal, blog-confessional style, many of the pieces on College Candy read like the life and style sections of other college newspapers, but writing for a pan-collegiate publication has its perks. Barnes, who has written for North by Northwestern, doesn’t get paid for her work, but appreciates being able to reach a larger audience. One of the first articles she wrote, “I’m Not An Oreo!” which examined labeling girls as “black on the outside, white on the inside,” sparked a positive discussion in the comments section about racial stereotypes, much to Barnes’s surprise and satisfaction.
“It was nice to see that my writing had affected girls from all over the country,” she says. “It’s kind of awesome to see my writing really out there and see that girls from everywhere can identify with it.”
For Barnes, the gig couldn’t get any sweeter. After falling in love with journalism during her stint as an opinion columnist for her high school newspaper, Barnes realized that serious reporting wasn’t her thing.
“I don’t want to do hardcore reporting about wars and crime, I just like to get my opinion out there,” she says. “This is exactly what I want to do.”
College Candy is dream job experience for budding journalists like Barnes, and Herskovic is happy to provide that opportunity to girls looking for careers in writing and editing.
“When I was at Michigan, it was hard for me to get internships,” she says. “Getting out into this industry was difficult. We do whatever we can to help them get a kick start after graduation.”
The College Candy network itself is extensive, with an ever-growing staff that currently has over 100 writers. Herskovic’s job involves coordinating all of the site’s writers and assigning story ideas, tasks she found surprisingly easy thanks to e-mail and the Internet.
But not all College Candy writers are the same. Barnes points out that some girls are far braver than others when it comes to what they’re willing to write about and the consequences they’re willing to put up with.
“A lot of the girls who have written about their sex lives get called a slut,” Barnes says. “There are definitely people who think we shouldn’t be writing so candidly about these things, but it comes with the territory.”
Herskovic has had her fair share of criticism as well.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone called me a mean name, I’d be the richest girl in the world,” she says.
But Herskovic refuses to compromise any of the Web site’s content, insisting that, comfortable or not, the stories on College Candy are the true stories of college girls, and not holding back is exactly what readers want. Pushing the envelope is a natural part of College Candy’s success.
“There’s a lot of sites geared towards women and they all look similar,” she says. “We wanted to be as real as possible. We’re not sugarcoating things. People are coming to College Candy because they want the detail.”