Friday, July 26, 2013

Embracing Washington's Magazine Culture

ASME interns are divided between two cities: New York and Washington, D.C. However, the division of interns is not exactly equal. While there are nearly 30 interns in New York, there are only five in D.C. This inequality makes sense in many respects, especially because New York is the magazine capital of the world. Its media culture is vibrant and ubiquitous. But spending the summer in Washington, D.C. at Washingtonian magazine, an incredible and award-winning regional magazine, has assured me that it’s more than possible to have an extremely successful career in the magazine industry without starting in New York.

Of course I already knew that this was the case. I know that there are great magazines across the country and world. But after working at Washingtonian and visiting a number of other D.C.-based publications, I’m very impressed with the magazines the Washington area has to offer; my firsthand experience in the nation’s capitol has also piqued my curiosity about other cities across the country, many of which also have vibrant magazines.

After I worked at New York-based Details magazine last summer, I was pretty much set on trying to work in New York after I graduated from college. I felt that New York affords incredible opportunities for those interested in media and specifically writing: I’d constantly be interacting and engaging with a tightly-knit yet large community of fellow writers, editors and media personalities. It’s a community that no other city possesses to that degree.

But being in Washington this summer has convinced me to broaden my future horizons, and not just to D.C. I've never been someone who has held a "New York or bust" attitude, but spending this summer in Washington has left me even more open to pursuing a magazine career somewhere other than New York. I've met writers and editors this summer who have made great careers for themselves without ever living in New York. Working at Washingtonian, a prestigious regional magazine, has spurred me to further examine other regional magazines around the country. Though I've known for a long time that successful magazine careers elsewhere are certainly possible, this summer I've been able to see it firsthand.

While D.C. ASME interns are outnumbered, I've loved every minute of being in Washington. We've been able to visit with a great group of publications: We've already visited National Geographic, Smithsonian, Politico, The New Republic and Washingtonian, and we have planned visits to AARP The Magazine and The Atlantic. The editors and staffers at all of these publications have been informative and passionate about their work; visiting these publications and interacting with their staffs have demonstrated to me the vibrant magazine culture of Washington.

Many of D.C.'s prominent magazines are political or historical in nature. As someone who gets chills every time I walk into the Lincoln Memorial, these themes appeal to me. But I realize that politics isn't for everyone. Even so, Washington's magazine scene could still appeal to the most staunchly apolitical among us. Washingtonian, for instance, covers politics to some degree, but also focuses on a host of other topics. Even though D.C. is widely seen as a political city, it has truly become a place of cultural significance as well.  

To be clear, I have nothing against New York. I still love the city, as it is always brimming with life (and incredible hot pastrami sandwiches). Living there one day would surely be an amazing experience. All I'm saying is that other cities, including Washington, also have great magazine cultures, though not as prominent as New York's.

Soon it will come time for me to choose where to launch my career. Though I will likely not have too much choice in the matter, it has been extremely heartening to witness the opportunities that exist in the magazine world outside of New York. I will certainly be thrilled wherever I end up, whether it is New York, D.C. or some other location. What I've learned this summer is that New York is not the only city with a great magazine community. And after experiencing Washington this summer and learning so much about its journalism culture, I feel that it's important to at least consider destinations beyond New York and even beyond the Northeast when ultimately considering a career path in magazine.

Written by Stanley Kay, Northwestern University, Washingtonian
Edited by Taryn Finley, Howard University, ESSENCE

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