Saturday, July 13, 2013

Discovering the Modern Magazine

Until the other day, I couldn't figure out how to put it into words–the difference between being an intern at Real Simple and interning at other magazines in the ASME program.

Then, as I sat down for coffee with a Real Simple editor, she said it. According to her, there are two types of magazines in New York City. There are magazines that follow the “old-school” style and those that can be labeled as “new-age.” Real Simple falls into the latter of those two labels for several reasons. In her opinion (and mine), the old-school style is out of date. It is time to drop challenges like the Harry Potter unpublished manuscript task from The Devil Wears Prada, or those impossible requests and barking commands given by editors.
Like most organizations, it starts at the top. The editors at Real Simple have fostered a relaxed environment where no staffer should feel their voice isn't heard. It is a place where managing editors stop at intern cubicles to say good morning, where department heads ask if you have plans for the weekend, and where researchers share tips to navigating the city.

I can’t count how many times I have told friends and family how nice my colleagues are. At our first department meeting when my supervisor asked how I liked it, I responded that I couldn't believe how helpful and friendly everyone is.

When I first began at the magazine I was expecting to be clueless and lost, too intimidated to ask questions. Except with every question I asked I was only rewarded. “Real Simple is a civilized place to work. That is how Kristin puts it,” one editor said of the editor-in-chief.   

Not once have I been asked to get a venti non-fat soy latte, required to get steak dinners, told to deliver “the book”, or instructed how to use a copy machine.

The editor’s point was again solidified when a top editor went out of her way to walk across the office to talk to another intern and me. She wanted to make sure we were given credit for the work we had done on a sidebar in the family issue. I was ecstatic to discover hanging on the mock-up, "Reported by Christina Catalano and Leah De Graaf" typed under that same sidebar. Our work hasn't gone unnoticed. While the contribution is small, the reward is great, even for the smallest things. 
Unlike Andrea Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada, I am given time for bathroom breaks and regularly complimented on my dresses, even though they aren’t from the racks of Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel or Valentino. Thankfully, Real Simple is no Runway.

By Leah De Graaf, Iowa State University, Real Simple

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