Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Red Tape

As I sat at the long wooden table tapping my fingers to the beat of my pulsing heart surrounded by ten other anxious girls I awaited the start of the highly anticipated Teen Voices Orientation for Editorial Mentors Summer 2009. I had never interned at a magazine before and I was excited to see who I’d be working with. A voice came from the far end of the table. “My name is Jessica Moore. I am the new editor of Teen Voices magazine and I will be working with you this summer.” Her reddish-brown hair matched her red dress and accentuated her clear blue eyes. Her smile was welcoming and her voice soothing bringing ease to those around her including me. Immediately an admiration was born within me. She’s so young and already an editor, I thought to myself. What did she do? How did she get there? Her name instantly came to mind at a given assignment months later so I quickly jumped on the opportunity of learning more about her path to success.

Originally from Oxford, England, Jessica moved to the United States with her family as a teenager residing in College State, Pennsylvania. “I realized my passion for writing in the sixth grade.” Her wide smile showed off her white glistening teeth as her mind wandered down memory lane. “I was interested in journalism of all types. I used to say I wanted to be like Connie Chung, which now I’m not so sure about. Her journalistic skills seem to have gone by the wayside.” After graduating high school she went on to pursue her Bachelors of Arts degree at Penn State University. I quickly wondered if she had any internship experience considering I am on the quest for another internship opportunity myself. “Yes I interned at a magazine that covered local events. It was a good experience overall. They helped me write a cover story on the dean of the college of arts and architecture – my first cover story and first introduction to the fact that your writing will always be pulled apart and worked over until you barely recognize it.” She laughed softly as she winked at me. Soon after graduating from Penn State Jessica moved to Washington D.C. to work for a publishing company while she completed some graduate work at Georgetown University. “I ended up living there for ten years. It was the best place for me to be, given where I was going with my career. I was never wild about the city, but doors kept opening for me career wise, so I wasn’t too compelled to leave.”

After gaining enough experience in the online publishing field Jessica decided to take the plunge into news. Her first job in the journalism field was at PBS’ The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, a station that reaches over 65 million people and has been continually honored by the industry’s most popular award competitions. “I was extremely lucky that my first real exposure to the field was with people who I consider to be among the best in the business. I learned an incredible amount from them.” Her answer compelled me to ask about specific journalists she looked up to. I quickly flipped the page of my writing pad. I didn’t want to miss any names. “I was consistently impressed with the anchors at The News Hour –Ray Suarez, Gwen Ifill, and Jim in particular. They take this business incredibly seriously and are among the few journalists who don’t allow their personalities to become more important than the story. More of a Walter Cronkite approach than you see from most journalists in 2009.”

I was suddenly reminded of a question I was asked not too long ago. Do you follow any blogs? I asked her. She looked up to the ceiling as she pondered. “Not for hard news, but yes –I read New York Magazine’s blogs on fashion and culture, The Cut and Vulture. I also read Gothamist, Pitchfork, New York Times Arts Beat, Media Decoder, and Nicholas Kristof’s blog.” Then without hesitation she promptly included that she does however rely primarily on BBC, NPR, The New York Times, and the Washington Post. She trusts and feels good about the effort they put into checking their sources and they go deeper than the surface of the story.

With no fear of change and of new possibilities Jessica constantly kept an open mind to newer, better career opportunities leading her to apply to several job openings in promising cities. When a career door suddenly opened in New York City she packed her suitcase and headed to the Big Apple. There she took a position as Managing Editor for Digital Media at Sesame Workshop. “I was responsible for telling Sesame Street’s story on the web, which meant writing about the international productions, talking about the mission, working on how best to get the word out that the company is doing so much more than just producing a show for kids. They’re working in health, hygiene, peace building, and so much more. It was a great experience, and very different from anything I’d done before, because it was more communications than journalism. And of course, it was a nice side perk that the job was in New York, which is as amazing as everyone says it is.”

In June 2009 after being offered the position of Chief Editor of Teen Voices magazine, an intensive mentoring and leadership development program for teen girls in Boston, Jessica didn’t think twice. Once again she packed her bags and without looking back she grabbed the opportunity with both hands. A big smile crept on my face as her eyes twinkled with excitement. She was obviously very proud of the organization she currently worked for. “Our mission is to support and educate teen girls, amplify their voices, and create social change through media. Through this program, and with submissions from girls around the world, the teens create an internationally distributed online and print magazine by, for, and about teen girls.”

I became curious about her role as an editor for the magazine. I had taken an editing course before but I knew it must have been more than just correcting grammatical errors. “It very much depends on the day, week, and month. Right now I'm in the process of wrapping up our fall print issue, so I spent most of today proofing layouts from the designer, working with interns to get images for some articles, answering questions the designer had. I'm also in the middle of putting together the October online issue, so I edited book reviews, got content from the interns who had interviewed teen activists. And we're redesigning our site and our print magazine, so I'm spending some time each day working on one or both of those projects.” There are many perks in being Chief Editor, having leeway to effect change is definitely one of them. According to Jessica that’s her favorite part about being a Chief Editor –not having to fight through a lot of red tape in order to make a change.

Enough about work, I told her. What do you like to do for fun on weekends? “I see a lot of live music, take ceramic classes, check out new restaurants and bars with my beau.” Although she’s not much of a sports fan she does admit she loves ice skating and does occasionally watch a football game every now and then. As a resident of Boston no more than four months Jessica is loving the fall weather and being able to get out of the city easily.

As the interview reached its end I asked Jessica to provide words of wisdom for students who are interested in the professional writing field, preparing myself to absorb her advice. “Read -- a lot! Think about why certain writers capture your imagination and then work out how to put it into practice in your own way.”

With her ambition and courage Jessica Moore will certainly find herself in bigger and better positions. I shook her hand, looked into her eyes and thanked her for taking the time to meet with me. I left feeling confident that I had learned something and inspired to take plunges myself.

1 comment:

  1. Can you get some photos in here? Of anything? I think it's useful to break up the text. . .