May 07, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Six years ago, when Entertainment Weekly first celebrated Take Our Daughters to Work Day, magazine journalism was a new concept to the gaggle of 9- to 15-year-old attendees. This year, the 37 girls (nearly half of them EW D-Day veterans) took to the day’s activities — creating a mini-magazine — like seasoned professionals. Less than halfway through MTV VJ Ananda Lewis’ tutorial on interviewing techniques, our pint-size guest reporters turned the tables and started peppering Lewis with questions. ”How long did it take you to get on MTV?” asked Emily Morris, 9. ”What do you think of the new VJ [Thalia DaCosta]?” wondered Jennifer Nunziata, 12. After the grilling, Lewis, who studied to be a teacher before launching her journalism career, couldn’t help but observe, ”These girls were well prepared.”

But the girls were really just warming up. Their press conference with outrageously creative fashion designer Betsey Johnson, who was the cover subject of the mini-magazine they were producing, lasted nearly an hour. Our tenacious junior scribes got Johnson to divulge her favorite color (pink) and the fact that she’s had ”three husbands and three divorces” — and is in the market for a good-looking older man. The designer had so much fun during her interview she asked to extend it. ”If all my interviews could only be this sweet,” she said later.

Once a photo shoot with Johnson was completed, EW staffers guided the girls through the production process — which started with writing the cover story. ”The pressure is on when they’ve been here more than once,” says associate editor Eileen Clarke, who oversaw a group of fourth graders. ”The older girls don’t like to write a Q&A because they think that’s too babyish. They want to write a full story.” With the deadline looming, the girls still had to select their favorite pictures of Johnson, design a cover, and learn how to market their four-page glossy.

By day’s end their magazines were successfully put to bed, the EW staff was exhausted, and many of the girls had clarified their career goals. Kate Radlauer, 11, now thinks she wants to be a fashion designer. Shena W. Hoffman, 10, hopes to be a teacher — or else a queen. And after a day of working at her aunt Rachel’s office, Sara Sapienza, 11, has set her sights on journalism because, she says, ”I want to meet stars really badly.” See ya in 10 years, Sara.

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