Monday, July 14, 2014

Embracing My Inner Midwestern Mom

To the inquisitive family members who corner me at the annual barbecue to ask about my hopes and dreams in between bites of hot dog:

To the beloved friends who are currently making more at their finance internships than I’ll see in all my days:

To the naysayers who tell me my career field will die a miserable death with no one at its bedside:

Here’s why I’m attached to my magazines, and here’s why I think they’ll stick around. Magazines know their audiences intimately: the advice they'll want to take, the trends they'll want to follow, the issues they’ll want to know more about. Editors can pick out what their readers care about before they've even heard of it. There's an authentic relationship humming in the pages of a magazine that doesn't exactly replicate itself in bit.ly links or channel surfing—or at least there is for me.

In kindergarten, Highlights was the playmate who brought fun puzzles and games over after school. In middle school, CosmoGIRL! was the older sister I never had. In high school and college, New York magazine has been the sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued professor I needed outside of the classroom.

This summer, I've realized that to be an editor is to fill the role that somebody needs.  Though I may have been dismayed to learn it at the time, my Highlights puzzles were not created by other kids, my CosmoGIRL! advice columnists were most likely decades beyond being a cool big sister, and my New York writers will not be holding office hours (sigh).  

Thinking about why I’ve loved my magazines, I’ve taken what I imagine to be the Family Circle mom—a sensible shoe-wearing, sporty SUV-driving, teen and tween-wrangling woman from Des Moines, IA—pulled up a second swivel chair at my desk, and let her read over my shoulder as I research and pitch and write.

But somewhere between asking her what’s on her summer reading list, listening to her stories about when her children have made her proud, and swapping Fourth of July recipes from our Pinterest pages, I’ve realized that she’s gotten in my head.

The connection that a magazine has with its readers, it turns out, doesn’t just flow in one direction. While I’ve got plenty to share with the Family Circle mom, she’s actually shown me plenty in return. Researching her credit score made me realize I should probably consider getting my first credit card, and telling her how the flu can hit at any time of year made me start carrying hand sanitizer in my bag. She can glance down under my desk and smile: sensible shoes.

I think I'm becoming a little like a Midwestern mom. And I’m glad that I am. Just like I saw my Highlights playmate, my CosmoGIRL! sister, and my New York mentor, I hope that the Family Circle mom sees my words in the magazine as a trusted friend. It’s a sign that I’m building a more authentic relationship with my readers, and in turn they're influencing me.

----Written by Gabriela Riccardi, Syracuse University, Family Circle
----Edited by Jordan Smith, South Dakota State University, Inc.

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