Day Two at the CMANYC conference once again started early, but luckily, a bit more brightly since we didn’t have to worry about getting in line for media tours. This morning, Kate and I didn’t attend any regular sessions because we went on a tour of Hearst Tower!
Hearst Tower is the world headquarters of the Hearst Corporation, founded by the famous media magnate William Randolph Hearst. It owns magazines like Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar. But that’s not all. It owns cable networks like ESPN and newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle.
Citizen Kane, more than loosely based on the life of Hearst, is one of my favorite movies of all time, so needless to say, I was completely stoked to be visiting the headquarters of this great company. Our first stop on the tour was by the office of Good Housekeeping magazine, which I was not super excited about at the moment, since I am not a girl who likes to clean and cook and be the best housekeeper in the world. I don’t think I will ever fit into that mold. However, the office was a lot more interesting than I anticipated. There were all these cool labs where they test each product they put in the magazine, from vacuums and anti-frizz serums to pasta sauce and laundry detergent. I think the tour guide said they test each recipe three times to make sure it works before they even put it in the magazine. Now that’s dedication!
Next up was a tour of the very top floor, where all the fancy executives, including members of the Hearst family, run the company. Of course, it was all very swanky with all this expensive art on the wall and fancy furniture and top-notch views of Central Park and the rest of the city. I felt like such a VIP.
Our final stop was at the office of Marie Claire magazine. I had such a 13 Going on 30 moment/The Devil Wears Prada moment in that office. I half-expected Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly to come gliding around the corner and cast a disdainful glare in our direction. The office looked like what you would think a magazine office would look like, but there definitely was a fashion closet and a make-up closet, and everyone was so fashionable. After our group got walked around the office (I peeked over a worker’s shoulder and saw that she was using Adobe InDesign to lay out a page for the magazine), we were ushered into a conference room where three different editors came in to talk to us about what it’s like to work at Marie Claire, how they got to the positions they are in now, and how the magazine world, and by extension, the whole of media has changed. I was especially impressed by Katie Connor, the Fashion Features Editor, who holds such a high position in the editorial realm at such a young age. She looked like she couldn’t have been more than 26 or 27, and she owed her early success to having many internships before she entered the job market. This made me a little uneasy, since I don’t have much internship experience to speak of, but that is something I am working to change right now.
The hallowed offices of Marie Claire magazine. Does it look straight out of Devil Wears Prada or what?
The three women emphasized the importance of fostering connections in the workplace, because the magazine world is so incestuous and everyone knows each other. A connection you made a few years ago could potentially lead to a job offer down the line. Another tip they had was to “be the person who fixes the copy machine.” By this, they meant that you need to find little ways to make yourself indispensible to whoever you work for that set you apart. Because I am really interested in magazine writing as a potential career path, I took every word they said to heart. After seeing the offices of both Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire, I can picture myself in that type of work environment, which I think is suited to my personality. Now, the next step is to get some experience! Easier said than done, for sure.
With our free copies of the March issue of Marie Claire in hand (we didn’t know if we were allowed to take them out of the office, but we did anyway. So rebellious!), Kate and I trekked back to the hotel and arrived a tad late for the keynote address by Jason Wagenheim, vice president and publisher of Teen Vogue magazine. He was a very flamboyant personality, to say the least, but he had a lot of interesting things to say about the print magazine industry and made it all very entertaining. Some fun facts from his presentation: Sex and the City made high fashion accessible to the public, big events are key to the success of any publication (like the Vanity Fair Oscar Party and Teen Vogue’s Back to School Saturday), and always do your homework on any company you would like to join one day.
After this, I attended a session about Writing with Voice in Narrative, taught by David Simpson, who also taught the Tough Interview session form Sunday. Developing my own voice as a writer is incredibly important to me as I grow more confident in my reporting. David suggested some easy solutions to the “stranglers:” fear, inadequate reporting, excessive objectivity, and limited time. These “stranglers” often keep a reporter from showing his or her own voice in a story, especially in a feature or narrative format. His remedies: read good writing ALL THE TIME, practice makes perfect, “fail faster” so you can get better faster, ask about SCENES so you can better paint a picture for the reader, and above all, trust your gut! If you have an emotional response to something a source says, chances are, so will your audience. The best way to put this is to use both sides of your brain in reporting. Yes, you should be analyzing facts, but you should also search for emotional cues that have the potential to take your story from average to amazing.
The showcase today was by a man named Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media guru who works at Columbia University. Within the first five minutes, my mind just exploded from all the social media tips he threw at us, from different websites to “name-checking” everyone on Twitter to following your ABC’s as a journalist: Always Be Collecting pictures and info with your smart phone or laptop. Sree says, be hashtag happy! The more blue your Tweets have in them, the better. At one point, Sree declared himself a Hindu priest of the Catholic Church, and made us get up out of our chairs, take pictures of his Social Media Success formula, all while chanting this formula together. Who knew social media could be such a religious experience?!
That pretty much concludes Day Two of the convention. Will Day Three be as crazy awesome? Stay tuned to find out!
What a coincidence! Stumbling upon The New York Times in New York City of all places! 😉
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