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Issue for July 2020

Hearst Magazine President Resigns

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 2:33 PM

In the news: Reporting from the New York Times

Last week, Hearst announced the resignation of magazine president Troy Young. The abrupt departure came in the aftermath of NYT's reporting of alleged bullying and sexual harassment by Young that contributed to a toxic work culture, as well as reports of pervasive racism in Hearst workplaces.

As Dade Hayes of Deadline.com reports, Troy's initial response to the Times allegations about his behavior were defensive. In the statement, he referred to the complainants as "detractors" and attributed his behavior to his "ambitious" "strength of commitment." As for alleged inappropriate sexual comments, he claimed that frank discussions about sex were part of the workplace culture. He softened his tone in a subsequent company memo, reports Greg Dool of Foliomag.com, but the damage was done; that same day, Hearst CEO Steven Swartz announced a mutual parting of ways with Young. Read the full NYT piece here. (Note: Subscription or registration required.)

Also Notable

Hearst Magazine Staffers Unionize

Just as we were about to publish this month's EO newsletter, we saw breaking news that Hearst staffers have voted to unionize. Kerry Flynn of CNN Business reports that the vote was 241-83 and that Hearst will unionize through the Writers Guild of America, East. According to Flynn, the unionization "encompass[es] 28 digital and print brands, including Cosmopolitan, Delish and Esquire, and it has about 500 members. It's one of the largest unions in the media industry." Read more here.

Are Journalists Giving Up on Twitter?

Racism in the magazine industry is a hot topic on social media, but some Black journalists are choosing not to participate on Twitter. Mark Lieberman of Poynter.org discusses how K. Austin Collins, one of four Black journalists interviewed in NYT's recent diversity initiatives at The Ringer, has opted out of the Twitter discussion. "His decision to abandon Twitter, motivated by a long-simmering sense that it wasn't compatible with his emotional and intellectual well-being," reports Lieberman. Instead, Collins has discussed issues with the article itself via text with the journalist and discussing the matter with friends offline, a growing trend in the journalism community at large. Read more here.

Hearst Expands Paywall and Membership Initiatives

Looking to recoup lost ad revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hearst is expanding its paywall program to fortify its subscription-based revenue streams. According to Kathryn Hopkins of WWD.com, Cosmopolitan is offering "a package including unlimited digital access and an exclusive newsletter and content is priced at $2 a month.... For $20 a year, they get the website, print magazine and newsletter, as well as various deals. Without a digital subscription, readers will be able to access four free articles a month." Read more here.

Magazines Adapt Newsletter Strategies

"The inbox is the new doorstep," New Yorker newsletter editor Jessi Li tells Greg Dool of Foliomag.com in a July 21 article. Many online readers look to curated newsletters to keep themselves up to date on topics of interest. Li tells Dool that her publication is doing well with "more traditional formats -- link drivers or article roundups -- that can function as a less cluttered, more curated version of a homepage for readers." Some publications, Dool says, citing comments from Robin Re (vice president of marketing at Industry Dive), are still having success with the headline-and-brief-summary format. Read more here.

O Magazine Shutters Print Edition

This week, Oprah Winfrey's O magazine announced that, after two decades, it will shutter its print edition at the end of the year. The Hearst-owned brand will continue online. As the AP notes in its reporting, the closure comes as Hearst deals with the fallout of president Troy Young's sudden departure last week and the industry at large grapples with plummeting print ad revenue. Read more here.

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Permanent Work at Home?

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 2:32 PM

At some point, the Covid-19 pandemic will end. But is telecommuting here to stay?

By William Dunkerley

"Work from Home Is Here to Stay" is a May 4, 2020 headline from The Atlantic,. Then on June 22 NPR ran a story: "Get a Comfortable Chair: Permanent Work from Home Is Coming."

A brief look at online ads recruiting editorial personnel shows a surprising number of publications seeking to fill work-at-home positions.

Meanwhile, many editors are expressing a strong desire to get back to the office and see things return to normal. Some are feeling cabin fever from being "stuck at home." Part of that is related to disruption of their established work routines by the Covid-19 crisis. Others are missing the personal friendships they had established in the office environment.

What's Really Going to Happen?

Answers to that question break down along two lines:

First is the matter of the pandemic. It's not over yet.

Already some attempts to return to normalcy in our society have been suspected as the cause of rising infection rates. Those results have challenged the wisdom of those attempts.

Public desire for salvaging the baseball season offers an example. Careful plans by the Miami Marlins were made to cope with the Covid predicament. Despite that, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the team "did not make it through the first weekend of play before the first crisis developed: a major outbreak involving the Miami Marlins." As of this writing, 18 members of the team’s traveling party have been infected, according to ESPN.com.

Editorial teams brought back together in an office face a similar risk. Strict precautions can go a long way. It's uncertain how staff may react, however, if and when the first infection within an editorial office becomes known.

It makes good sense for us to be prepared for continued work at home for some time. Those who've already returned to office should be prepared for possibly being sent home again, depending on the future course of the virus.

Second is the issue of permanent work from home. This is something that editorial managers should be giving much thought. While many think of it as just a temporary adaptation to the Covid conditions, it's worth looking beyond that.

Howard Rauch, president of Editorial Solutions, wrote us: "Regarding the whether or not to return to the office issue, perhaps there is a related budding concern to consider. What happens when publishing management decides to vacate the office environment permanently? I know of one case where that's happened recently, but there must be other managements thinking about the possibilities."

The Challenges of Change

Permanent work at home would certainly represent a significant change for editorial staffers. In turn, the staffers would present new challenges for editorial management. Imposed change frequently is met by staff resistance. It is a leading cause of failure when making business changes.

Change can raise fears regarding job, income, status, future opportunities, perks, reputation, influence, responsibility, autonomy, relationships, familiar routines, and security.

One particular challenge when working outside a traditional office environment is our need to communicate with others in the process of producing a publication. Much of our work has a sequence to it.

First there is the collaborative issue planning. Then, as individual articles work their way toward publication, they usually are handled by different people with different roles: handling editor, copy editor, design editor, proofreader, etc. Time lost in going from one staffer to another can put a publication behind schedule quickly.

Years ago I saw an unfortunate situation when that sequence was permanently interrupted. The publisher was a boating fanatic. She wanted to have endless long weekends to spend on her boat. So she put the publication on a four-day workweek. Staffers had to choose between working from Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday.

The publisher hadn't given any thought to what this would do to the publication schedule. The result was that when one person completed his work on an article on Thursday, it was possible that the next person to handle it wouldn't be at work until the following Tuesday. It created a disastrous slowdown. Work-at-home schedules need to be arranged to avoid situations like that.

Look for a Bright Side

While being cognizant of possible drawbacks to home-based work, it would be constructive to take stock of possible benefits.

Are there any advantages to having staff work from home? Does it increase the pool of candidates for filling editorial positions? Can some editors work more productively from home? Are there cost savings for your editorial budget that can be achieved from it?

Advantages may be seen differently dependent upon the age group of an individual. It will be important to be sensitive to how it is viewed by individuals on your staff. Some believe that older staffers will be more grateful for not having a daily commute. On the other hand, younger staff members may tend to be more facile in using remote communications and more welcoming of it.

The popularity of texting offers one example. A PEW study once showed an inverse correlation regarding age: more years, less texting. This was apparent to me two years ago while sitting in a restaurant in Europe. I was having dinner with a local journalist and her husband. We were having a robust conversation. Partway through, the husband called my attention to a younger couple seated across the aisle. They were sitting there robustly texting. I mused that maybe they were texting each other. So the husband said to them in the native language, "This American wants to know if you are texting each other." They chuckled and with a smile affirmed that they were texting others. I wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. But the point is that you may have to deal with a permanent switch to mostly electronic communication being received differently based on generational differences.

Time to Plan

Now is a good time for planning for the worst -- or the better, depending on how you look at the possibility of permanent work at home. I strongly recommend looking for the good aspects of it -- and ways of dealing with staffers that you might need help to avoid permanent adjustment problems in dealing with it.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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A Fresh Approach to Leads, Part I

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 2:31 PM

Which type of lead best serves the piece you want to write?

By Peter P. Jacobi

The writers of fiction can show us the way. Take leads -- beginnings.

The writers of fiction need to find ways of getting the reader started, then immersed. And not too slowly.

The writers of nonfiction, those who would engage others in the pages of the magazine, for instance, need to find ways of getting their readers started, then immersed. And not too slowly.

The parallels of responsibility and of approach can be striking.

For Example...

So familiar, this lead: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epic of disbelief, it was the epic of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."

Charles Dickens opens his Tale of Two Cities this way, striking the reader's mind through parallelism and contrasts, the former a stylistically enticing verbal structure, the latter a way of surprising with the range of differences.

The parallelism amounts to manner, the "how" of presentation.

The contrast is a way of handling matter, the "what" of presentation.

How and what are the essential elements of the lead.

As Dorothy Vines once showed us in TV Quarterly when she reintroduces us to a world we thought we knew but apparently don't:

Fade In: a lush, deserted tropical island, palm trees languidly swaying over ways-drenched, semi-new lovers stretched out at the water's edge locked in a passionate embrace...

Fade In: An unmarried couple in bed. She unbuttons his shirt and repeatedly kisses his chest. She tells him, "I want you to want me so much you cannot stand to be without me."

Fade In: Along the Seine's left bank, strolling hand-in-hand, two lovers enjoy the actual sights and sounds of a spring day in Paris...

It may come as a surprise, or perhaps even the shock to non-soap watchers, these are not scenes from a high-budget or X-rated feature film but from old episodes of Search for Tomorrow, Days of Our Lives, and One Life to Live, respectively. Gone forever were the stereotypes associated with soap operas...

Any Lead That Summarizes -- Established the Subject

For Tolstoy, in Anna Karenina, an aphorism says it all: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Here is a preliminary wisdom, a theme, perceived truth. Everything that follows in his novel will bear out that statement. It's like a summary, a thesis, and all-encompassing nugget.

Some magazine articles lend themselves to such treatment. Their authors decide that readers are best served with brief basics. A story once in Chain Store Age says simply: "Yesterday's crumpled, rumpled antiestablishment generation is dressing up." All that comes thereafter will support that opening.

I like this one from a piece in the New York Times:

To a judge, New York City's Criminal Court is an endless crotch of cases that rarely allows time for compassion or careful consideration of complex human issues.

To a defense lawyer from the Legal Aid Society who has been on the job nine months and has yet to try a case, the court is a daily exercise in frustration.

To a prosecutor, it is a daily parade of accused criminals whose sheer numbers almost guarantee that they will be freed or sentenced on reduced charges.

We know what the story will tell us. We know what the story's purpose is. Those are the advantages of a summary or thesis lead.

Setting the Tone

Sometimes, the fiction writer strives for the essence of the tone, a field that will imbue the entire book or a character within it.

Take this start:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

That's J. D. Salinger, of course. That's Catcher in the Rye. That's Holden Caulfield talking, revealing immediately what he is all about, on the level, at least.

(We'll continue with the matter of tone in Part II.)

A classic article from a past issue in tribute to the late Peter J. Jacobi, longtime EO writer and author of The Magazine Article: How to Think It, Plan It, Write It.

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Free Assistance

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 2:29 PM

During this time of crisis, we stand ready to answer any specific questions our readers may have, time permitting. You can contact us at: crisis-help@editorsonly.com.

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