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When we arrived at the Hearst Building on W. 57th and 8th Ave., we were educated on the impressive features of this post-9/11 skyscraper. The environmentally friendly design, with its soaring diamond-faceted glass cladding above and its “Icefall” water-cascading sculpture in the lobby, was the work of Sir Norman Foster, who fashioned it right on top of a historical building created for William Randolph Hearst in 1928.
Elyse Moody, an associate editor at Elle, took us up to that magazine’s offices. In a glass-walled conference room, we were greeted by four more Elle staffers who preceded to guide the class through how a recent Living section article was made and produced.
Amanda FitzSimons, associate editor of Living, described how the hardest part of her job was narrowing down pieces to the few that can be placed in a magazine. Once they pick a story, the idea is presented to the associate art director, Jill Serra Wilde, to plan what and who will be featured and to plan where to shoot images, what photographer to use, etc. Elle mainly uses freelance photographers, although Hearst Publications does have an in-house studio to shoot all still life photos. Once the piece is photographed and written, the piece is sent to the editor-in-chief to get her approval and notes. The piece is then subjected to a routine in which the editor and associate editors make edits, and fact checkers research the piece for accuracy. Brendan Cummings, senior research editor, describes a Living piece being much easier to fact check compared to a celebrity or medical piece. Once the piece has been fact checked and approved by the editor-in-chief, it is then sent out for publishing.
— Jenna Gustafson
It occurred to me shortly after we began our train ride to the Big Apple (I think somewhere between Cumberland and Manassas) that this trip was a nice complement to my class on Alfred Hitchcock films with Professor Adams from last year’s Spring Term. One of the movies we watched, and my favorite Hitchcock film, was North by Northwest (1959) starring the perpetually debonair Cary Grant and the stunning Eva Marie Saint. Without going through a whole summary (watch the trailer), it’s a story of mistaken identity and is a fast paced film and decidedly light-hearted thriller. In an interview with a film critic, Hitchcock later admitted that the whole movie boils down to a sort of big joke on Grant’s character, Roger O. Thornhill.
Try to stick with me on this on. In the film Thornhill, at this point a wanted criminal, sneaks onto the 20th Century Limited in Grand Central Station and stumbles into the company of a classic Hitchcock blonde, Eve Kendall (Saint). I don’t dare give up too much and ruin the movie, but, with some clever innuendo, Hitchcock makes sure the audience knows the two, shall we say, “hit it off.” In between, there’s a dinner car scene with plenty of witty banter. All the while, Thornhill is wearing his sunglasses in a comical attempt at disguise.
So I guess my experience on the train along the Northeast Corridor line with my good friend John Martin was slightly different. For starters, John is not a seductive blonde femme fatale. It’s ridiculous, I know, but I kept trying to draw parallels in my head between my experience with train travel and Thornhill’s in the movie. But let me tell you, there weren’t many. I did wear my sunglasses on the train, though I doubt I resembled Cary Grant. And I wasn’t hiding from the cops; it was just sunny.
I think more than anything, it made me aware of the distinct lack of elegance in modern travel and the unfortunate changes that have taken place over the last 50 years. For one, the dining car in the movie had waiters, glassware, tablecloths, hot entrees, and cocktails. The “dining car” of 2014 had mediocre looking sandwiches, chips, and little plastic liquor bottles. As far as I could see, sleeping cars are completely a thing of the past. The dramatic change was really driven home on our way back when we were waiting in today’s Penn Station. It was a sterile, crowded, and very unattractive, but—without irony—someone decided to place pictures of the grand old Penn Station that was demolished in the 60s. It’d be difficult to imagine Cary Grant in the Penn Station or the train of today.
Maybe all this elegance was the just the effect of good directing by Hitchcock, but there’s been an unmistakable change in the world—how buildings are built and decorated, the way people dress, etc.—in favor of the functional, convenient, or less expensive. In an attempt to make this blog post the least bit relevant to our class, this phenomenon can be seen to an extent in the media of today. People are choosing to look for the most convenient way to get their news or read the latest magazine piece. Not to say there’s a lack of art or skill in the graphic design of an iPhone app, but there’s something lost in reading from a screen instead of paper. The changes that have come with modern technology has had a profound effect on how media companies do business and form and maintain a relationship with their readers. Could you imagine Cary Grant hiding his face behind an iPad in a Taco Bell in the Penn Station of 2014? Personally, I don’t think North by Northwest would be quite the same.
— Charlie Klingenberger
As I mentioned earlier, the design team has had a lot of work to complete recently. Being the last step in the process, we’ve really been trying to put together nice pages for the articles that are now finished. Today, we continued working on the Leavings Of War layout, the cover, and I began laying out Wyn’s short about FOOTHILL MAMA’s restaurant. Here is what I have finished thus far.
As the design team was playing around with inDesign, we found it difficult to put a layout together without any articles to insert into the magazine yet. So Professor Cumming gave us an article written by one of his previous students about the historical museum at VMI. One of our members, Andrew Lamb, edited the story, while Maggie Glaze was in charge of putting together a template for the article. Unfortunately, we had only a few, low-quality images to use, therefore, this left me in charge of walking over to shoot pictures.
It was a little strange walking over there because the only time I have been on VMI’s campus (called “Post”) is to run through it for cross country practice with the team by my side. But this time I was alone. Everyone I passed was very nice and said hello. Once I arrived at what I thought was the museum, I asked if I could speak with Col. Keith Gibson (with whom I had gotten into contact with about coming to take pictures). The man at the front desk looked at me and chuckled. He then kindly told me I had the completely wrong museum. Who knew that VMI had more than one museum on campus?
He then pointed me in the right direction and I arrived safely at the correct destination.
Once I arrived at the correct museum, I was greeted by a receptionist and a VMI student named Phillip. Phillip was kind enough to give me a quick tour of the museum as I carefully snapped pictures of various exhibits.
Here are some of the photos I took that may appear in the final product.
At our first stop of the trip the CEO of ASME, Sid Holt, spoke to us over the telephone since he was staying home, under the weather. I think I can speak for the group when I say I was immensely grateful to Mr. Holt for taking an hour out of his (sick) day to talk about the magazine industry with us.
The offices of the ASME-MPA were unmistakably modern and hip. Much of the interior was white and minimalist, yet contained splashes of color, like the bright orange chairs outside the conference room. It occurred to me that this mirrored the trend in print media that has apparently made “white space” in magazines and advertisements trés chic. As Professor Cumming observed at Martha Stewart Omnimedia’s offices—a tastemaker today if there ever was one—“white is the new black.”
Returning to Mr. Holt, he began by answering Professor Cumming’s question about what he foresaw to be the future of print media. Mr. Holt prefaced his comments by discussing the rapid change that has occurred in the last decade or so, but admitted that nobody really knows what will happen next. Furthermore, he said that, today, past performance is certainly no indicator of what will happen in the future. There are too many variables swirling around the multi-platform, digital, social world of media today. The very operations of a magazine have multiplied because of this. When Mr. Holt began his career, there were three maybe four departments at a publication. Today, there are all sorts of departments that try to address the changing marketplace, like digital marketing and social media to name just a few.
This, according to Mr. Holt, is all for the purpose of “monetizing” a reader’s relationship with a publication—more specifically, a brand. However, at the center of this brand is still the physical printed product. The relationship that the publication and its brand have with its readers is still shaped by the magazine that can be acquired through the mail or from the newsstand or in line at the supermarket. Today, the magazine industry is also dependent on social media. This seems like something that almost anyone with a Facebook or twitter account could surmise. Mr. Holt discussed the perhaps less obvious trend of aggregating content on websites. In some ways though, this flatly contradicts the long-held goal of magazines to direct readers’ attentions to specific stories and issues.
For Town & Gown, Mr. Holt offered some useful advice…
- See what successful magazines with similar focuses and audiences are doing. He suggested we look at Southern Living and, in particular, Garden & Gun. We must be really smart since we’ve already been basing much of what we’re doing off of the latter.
- He stressed the importance of building a relationship with your reader and one that will appeal to advertisers (since we’d like to, you know, stay afloat). Fortunately for us, the 21-34 crowd is the most valuable for advertisers, which is right in our targeted demographic. Going along with one of Mr. Holt’s earlier points, this group is ripe for being monetized. I think we should all give ourselves on the pat on the back for choosing such a lucrative target audience.
- The “heterodox” view of media is that consumers don’t really want to pay to view a publication—if they did, they’d be paying huge sums of money for quality content. This may generally be true, yet Mr. Holt agrees with our idea to at least charge a nominal fee, since it elevates the appreciation and care of said readers. The readers would, in his words, “commit to the experience.” Let’s hope they commit to Town & Gown.
— Charlie Klingenberger
The Spring Term Festival will be noon to 2 p.m., May 18.
Let me know by email which 40 minutes you’d like to be there to show our prototype and magazine-idea prospectus (4-5 students for each would be ideal).
Noon – 12:40 – Caroline Sanders, Peter Rathmell, Wyn Ponder, Andrew Lamb, Hendley Badcock
12:40 – 1:20 – Maggie Dick, Maggie Glaze, Barbara Bent,
1:20 – 2 p.m. – Andrea Siso, John Martin, Charlie Klingenberger
I’d like to have the following items in digital form and ready to show on screen:
— Our Town & Gown prototype, with cover, about 4-6 pages of front of the book, and 4-6 pages of feature story layout.
— An attractive presentation, with graphic elements and data, of our business plan and market survey.
— Our JOUR215 blog.
While there won’t be a class on Friday morning, we might need that time to get these things in final polished order.
There’s something about coming south on a train, especially the train that leaves New York and comes into Virginia bound for Atlanta and New Orleans. To me, it’s like the coming of spring, with its thickening leafy shadows and wild smells. I do love the South, the old family stories going back deep into Augusta, Ga., and its canal and into east Tennessee. The South I love was distilled perfectly in the time our daughter Sarah and I stopped by Uncle Jim’s farm in Dixon Cove, returning from her college-search visit to Sewanee before her scheduled surgery at Emory to have metastasized osteosarcoma removed from her lungs. We stayed the night, eating a dinner of food mostly grown on that land – three generations around the table. We helped our cousins bottle home brew, and I found a 1936 book signed by its authors that was a sequel to I’ll Take My Stand, more focused on critiquing American capitalism and individualism (among the thousands of old books in that homemade house, this one was called Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence).
In New York, we saw “All the Way,” the acclaimed play in which “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston impersonates LBJ in his year of being an accidental president – 1964. The play has become part of the country’s 50-year anniversary reflection on its Civil Rights turning point. The sense of tragedy I got from the play was the way the white South turned away from LBJ’s populist sentiment. His power-games and insecurity were ugly, as the LBJ character admits. He had a knack for politics, and it’s ugly (Obama, take note, the playwright seems to be saying). But he had a heart for the poor, because he had been poor, and for poor Hispanic children, because he had taught them, and for civil rights, because as nasty as his political tactics were, he was disgusted by the easier, sleazier tactic being used by every other Southern politician at the time (even Georgia Gov. “Cufflink” Carl Sanders, my kinsman from Augusta, a character in the play). Their tactic was to sow fear and hatred for all the forces of change that would bring black Southerners – their maids and laborers and Atlanta University intellectuals – into equal citizenship and full humanity as Christian brothers and sisters. King preached it, and so did other remarkable characters in the play, like Bob Moses and Henry Aaron and Fannie Lou Hamer, the saints and martyrs of Freedom Summer. (Oh my South, when will you see another “Freedom Summer”?)
LBJ, feeling harassed by pressure from these blacks, won the Civil Rights Act of 1964 not from any outside pressure but from his own soul-borne convictions. The first Southern president since Wilson, he represented a vision that the white South – the political South – rejected. So his victory in the end left him profoundly sad. He knew he had lost the South to the Republican Party for generations to come. He won the greatest popular vote of any American president, but the Deep South went for Goldwater.
We’re home again, getting off the train in beautiful Charlottesville.
(Footnote: Sarah, cancer-free for five years now and a year after her graduation from Sewanee, is working for the New York Times, processing photos for its media partners. She and her boyfriend appeared in the lobby of the Novotel upon our first arrival there Sunday night. Hendley, Barbara, Maggie Glaze and Wyn arrived then to announce, with controlled giddiness, that they’d just seen Bryan Cranston leaving the stage door for his limo on 52nd St., practically next door to our hotel.)
— Prof. Doug Cumming
If there is one thing that describes my trip to New York as a whole, it is that New York never ceases to amaze. By the time we entered the Time & Life Building, we were in the process of completing our second full day in the City. We had already met a variety of inspiring people and had traveled to a variety of places and buildings. However, when passing into the Time & Life Building, I still had butterflies in my stomach as I looked around in awe.
When entering the glossy elevator to travel to the 28th floor, I was still surprised that there could be such high numbers that one could choose to press. The 28th floor belonged to People magazine, one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads for as long as I can remember. As I passed a foosball table placed next to a window looking out at a beautiful, postcard-worthy view of the New York skyline, I had a feeling that this was a place where important things happened.
We entered a room and all sat at a large conference table with three People magazines laid individually in front of us, much to my delight. After getting situated in our seats, Lee Cordobes, Associate Publisher for Cooking Light, began to have her conversation with us. As a graduate of Washington and Lee’s 2001 class, she understands the shoes that we are currently walking in. She articulated that she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduating as a double major in Art History and Economics. With this comment, I relaxed. She seemed to comprehend my current struggles with finding my niche in life after college. However, this smart lady with a kind, genuine face and smile, talking in front of me, did find her direction and became successful. Perhaps all hope is not lost for me quite yet!
Cordobes’ discourse focused on her experience with marketing and ad sales. If there was one word that describes the main emphasis of her talk, it would be brands. She explained that the industry is thinking more like brands now. Prior to recent years, the industry concentrated on the tangible, printed property of the magazine. Now, however, the focus has changed to selling the brand and engaging the consumer in a variety of media. The main question asked today is: how can we sell the content and the brand in a way that is interesting and interactive with the audience?
After Cordobes answered all our questions, Amy Kelleher, manager of Human Resources at Time Inc., spoke with us. She discussed with us two opportunities to work with magazines at Time Inc. during and right after college: Time Inc. Summer Internship Programs and the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group Fellowship Program. Our time with Kelleher was particularly unique because she described chances to gain magazine experience that we can take advantage of now. While other talks enlightened us about the future, Kelleher focused on the present.
The visit to Time Inc., I think, gave direction to all of us. We learned about ways to gain skill at the present time and to prepare for the skills we will need in the future. Holding on to this advice in the hopes of keeping big numbers next to the elevator buttons!
— Laura Lemon
On May 5, I had the opportunity to see Coldplay perform before a crowd of less than 3000 people at Beacon Theatre. On a Monday night in New York City, where there are a million different things to do, tickets sold out right after they were released. For a band that sells out stadiums worldwide, the much smaller venue provided an intimate performance for the group’s fans, not only at the theater, but also listeners on Sirius XM radio. Coldplay performed to pre-release their new album, Ghost Stories, which comes out on May 19.
The concert highlighted the wide array of audience Coldplay reaches. The seats were filled with teenagers in blue jeans and a t-shirt to successful, balding businessmen in tailored suits. Yet, everyone was there for the same reason: his or her love of Coldplay. Chris Martin, Coldplay’s front man, embraces Coldplay’s loyal, differing fan base by stating “we have the best fans in the world.” He even jokes about how his group, and thus audience, is growing older by remarking, “if only we had the courage to dress in something other than black, we might be as successful as One Direction.”
As with magazines, Coldplay understands forming a connection with its audience. In order for a magazine or a musical group to thrive, they must acquire and maintain fans through their content. As a magazine attracts a certain type of reader, a band similarly attracts a certain type of listener. A band must understand its audience and produce content for its audience. Coldplay, an alternative band, does not produce content for rap fans, as a sports magazine does not have wedding design content.
During the concert, Coldplay highlighted connection through content in their set list. The set list consisted of a total of sixteen songs, seven of which are on their unreleased album, while the other nine were Coldplay classics that the audience knew by heart. By having this even split between old and new songs, Coldplay’s concert gave its audience what it wanted: a chance to sing along with their old songs and an opportunity to hear songs from their unreleased album.
For the second encore, Coldplay even performed a song that no one had heard before. Prior to performing the song, the radio broadcast was turned off and Chris asked that no one record the song because he wanted to keep it a secret for the album. He gazed around the theater and pointed out the attire of about eight members of the crowd to emphasize the special connection between the band and its fans. In this instance, the connection was held together because each fan was able to hear a song unavailable to anyone else, and Coldplay knew this song would remain unavailable because they trusted their connection with each audience member to not film the song.
In order for Coldplay, a magazine, or a business to succeed, a strong connection is needed between the producer and consumer. Coldplay, a band that has remained popular for nearly fifteen years, understands this. How long Coldplay will keep a strong connection with its audience remains unknown. I, for one, hope they are able to maintain their magic for many years to come.
– Andrew Lamb