April isn't the cruelest month. For a couple of tabloids, the darkest hour came in July. Last month, after 10 years, New York Newsday was shuttered, making national headlines. But another paper bit the dust without fanfare or a fare-thee-well, leaving New York kids without a voice.
ZuZu, a 3-year-old bimonthly tabloid, published its last issue last month, thanks to a killer budget. In a letter to readers, editor/publisher Beck Underwood wrote: "we are suspending publication for many reasons... I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Don't ever stop expressing your unique visions of the world."
Penning that obit was the toughest thing Underwood ever did, she said: "ZuZu gave kids from all over the city a place to reflect and dream and also to talk about their daily reality. And that wasn't always such a happy place."
Kids from all walks of New York life contributed to its pages - a mix of social concerns, artwork, prose, poetry and activities listings. Underwood, 32, met with kids from schools and health facilities to conceive, design and produce original work for ZuZu.
Features included "Emily's Cultural Corner," profiling Broadway stars, and "Computer Critics," telling kids the skinny on the lastest software.
The paper was staffed by a volunteer board of advisers that included educators, child psychologists and other professionals. Circulation was up to 30,000 since its 1992 debut, distributed free in schools, libraries and homeless shelters. Some subscriptions were sold ($12 yearly) but not enough to keep the paper afloat. Publishing costs ran $3,000 a month and Underwood worked part-time as an advertising art director to help subsidize it. "If I could get my wish, I'd ask a bunch of different corporations to underwrite and issue each month, " said Underwood, who's hoping such "angels" can revive ZuZu.
Sjatinia Santiago, a Bronx fifth grader, wants to save ZuZu. "If I had a magic wand, I'd get people with a lot of money to give to Beck so she could keep printing the kids' stuff," she said.
For info on saving ZuZu, call (212) 477-6756.(Serviss is a freelance writer.)