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Although she built a successful publishing company and was honored by Working Woman magazine as one of 25 "mothers we love," Nancy Gruver, MPA 1996, was at a loss for what to say when she was asked to address the Women in Periodicals Publishing conference.
The request for Gruver to speak on "media making a difference" came at an emotionally difficult period in her life. Less than a month earlier, one of her editors, a 27-year-old woman committed to girl's and women's issues, had unexpectedly died of a heart attack - the result of an 11-year battle with anorexia and bulimia.
"I questioned what difference we do make," said Gruver from her Minnesota office.
After much reflection, Gruver wrote the speech and answered her own question. Yes, magazines like New Moon, the critically acclaimed magazine she started eight years ago as an alternative for pre-teen girls facing a barrage of negative messages about what they should be, do make a difference.
"Our culture still is not a safe place for girls and women," she said. "We can't be open about our needs and desires. What New Moon and other alternative media do is create a safe place where we can let down our guard and be ourselves. That's incredibly important."
For the days when Gruver needs to be reminded of the importance of her mission, all she needs to do is watch the impact that her publishing group's latest campaign, "Turn Beauty Inside Out," is having on how girls think about physical appearance. The campaign includes radio and television public service announcements, a special New Moon edition that challenges People magazine's "50 most beautiful people" issue, and a kid-centered ad contest that will bring the winners to New York City in May to share their ideas with Madison Ave ad executives. The goal is to to "reclaim the meaning of beauty," said Gruver.
And if that's not enough, Gruver can simply pull out the letters that the magazine receives from readers around the world, thanking her for her work. There's even a mother's day card she got last year that she keeps tucked in her office, sent but by one of the original members of New Moon's editorial board (made up entirely of 8- to 14-year-old girls). The card said the magazine had allowed this young woman, now ready to graduate from college, to see a world she hadn't seen before.
"I can't even put into words what that meant to me," says Gruver. "Watching the girls who have been involved in the magazine as they make their way in the world has been one of my greatest rewards. So far, every single one of them has chosen to so something related to her passion and something that is also making the world a better place."